Writing Wednesday: When do you put a comma before the word ‘and’?

Welcome to my first Writing Wednesday post! On Wednesdays, I’ll be talking all things writing, including grammar and lessons I cover with my students.

As a writer, I belong to numerous online writing communities. This past week, a fellow writer emailed me about when to use a comma before the word and. Excellent question!

Here’s the basic rule:

Use a comma before a conjunction when joining two independent clauses.

Think of independent clauses as being complete sentences that could stand on their own. Conjunctions are words that join other words, phrases, or sentences (e.g, and, but, or, for, so, yet, nor).

Example: My family and I visited Rome, but we didn’t get to see the Colosseum.

Independent Clause #1: My family and I visited Rome.

Conjunction: but

Independent Clause #2: We didn’t get to see the Colosseum.

If you don’t have a complete sentence on both sides of the conjunction, you don’t need a comma. For example: We visited Rome and saw the Colosseum.

Like most grammar rules, there are some exceptions. If you are joining two independent clauses that are very short, you can skip the comma. (He called and I answered.)

There are  many other rules involving commas in different situations, such as dates, addresses, appositives, and lists. I’ll cover those later.

Question for you: What grammar question would you love to ask an English teacher?


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2 Responses to Writing Wednesday: When do you put a comma before the word ‘and’?

  1. Ginny Marie says:

    I always have to go back over my writing and delete commas! I don’t know why I love them so. Here’s a grammar question….I always forget when to use “who” and “whom” especially in a question.

  2. AJ Cattapan says:

    Excellent question, Ginny Marie! I’ll put it on my list of future “Writing Wednesday” posts!

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