Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pesky Comma, Balanced Independent Clauses and "And"

I’m a firm believer that commas spend most of their time trying to get in the way of my writing. Of course, there are times when commas are necessary, but I believe that it’s important to use them as sparingly as possible. If they detract from the writing then they need to be stricken from the page. My biggest pet peeve is the comma placed before the coordinating conjunction “and.” More specifically, when the word "and" is joining two independent clauses that are fairly balanced.

Remember conjunctions? “Conjunction, junction, what’s your function?” “Hookin’ up words and phrases and clauses.”

Conjunction Junction, What's your function?

To be honest, I learned everything I needed to know about grammar from Schoolhouse Rock. I also learned the basics of government, but that’s a different post.

Anyway, I digress. The conjunction junction that we’re talking about is the use of a comma before the word "and" when we’re hookin’ up two independent clauses.

Here’s an example: John loved to play the bass guitar, and he always played at night.

Both “John loved to play the bass guitar” and “He always played at night” are independent clauses with relative balance on either side of the word "and." Because they are related, I decided that a compound sentence would be more appropriate than two that were separate. Here’s where I start having an issue with things. In my opinion, the word "and" is enough to separate the two clauses. There is no need for a comma to add complexity, pause or even confusion.

Some people might think that I’m aspiring to be some e.e. Cummings or Cormac McCarthy, but truly, I’m not. I don’t believe in destroying all punctuation just for the sake of destroying it. My point is that I believe the coordinating conjunction is enough in a situation where you have two balanced independent clauses and the word “and.” The comma isn’t necessary.

And yes, I know my loving muse will disagree. She's my AP Style girl, you know.

Just a rant.

That’s all for now.

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