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In the Penguin guide to punctuation Larry Trasks claims that a joining comma must be followed by and, or, but, yet or while.

However, I was under the impression that a joining comma should be followed by one of the FANBOYS (for, and, not, but, or, yet and so).

Why the discrepancy?

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What’s a joining comma? –  tchrist Feb 28 '13 at 1:23
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You have to be a Larry Trask fanboi to know his system & explain it all. It's all available on the web. I've looked at it, & as impressive as his work is, it's just another way of looking at the same old stuff we've had to deal with in English grammar classes for the past two hundred years. I found his comma types contradictory at worst & a bit unclear at best. I'd suggest ignoring the terminology for the simple reason that a comma is a comma is a comma. Why is the comma there? That explains its function in the sentence. Is it necessary? You'll find no "joiner" tattoo on any comma. –  user21497 Feb 28 '13 at 1:39
    
@tchrist A joining comma is used to join two complete clauses. It is followed by a coordinating conjunction. For example: I am going away, and I may not come back. –  The Frog Mar 1 '13 at 0:50
    
@Bill Franke "I found his comma types contradictory at worst." In what way? –  The Frog Mar 1 '13 at 0:52
    
@TheFrog: The so-called "joining comma". But I guess when one attempts to clean out the Augean stables, one will always miss a few horse apples. That "joining comma" in your example is strictly optional in 21st-century English. The conjunction joins the two sentences. Therefore, it's a useless comma. See what I mean? –  user21497 Mar 1 '13 at 1:08
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1 Answer

The discrepancy comes from nothing more than the incompleteness of each set of words. Notice that the two sets of words overlap a good deal, and that neither one excludes the other, nor do they exclude any other possibilities.

And let's not forget that a fundamental use of the comma is to indicate a pause, especially when the pause would be utilized if the words were spoken. (Which means that The Frog's example of a joining comma is not necessarily useless, but yes, it's optional.)

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