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In the following sentence, how should I place commas around the word "both"? Should there be a comma before AND after "both", or ONLY after it? Should there be commas at all?:

"This includes strengthening my knowledge in the fundamental subjects of this field, and gaining more experience in, both, robotics research, as well as the implementation of developed theory on physical robotic systems."

The above sentence is trying to say that I wish to do two things:

1) strengthen my knowledge in the fundamental subjects of an aforementioned field of study (namely, robotics),

2) gain experience in two types of tasks: (a) conducting research in robotics; and (b) implementing theory (developed through research) on physical robotic systems.

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3 Answers 3

"This includes strengthening my knowledge in the fundamental subjects of this field, and gaining more experience in both robotics research as well as the implementation of developed theory on physical robotic systems."

No commas are needed. It sounds odd with "both" and "as well as" together. I recommend one or the other:

.. gaining more experience in robotics research as well as the implementation of ..

.. gaining more experience both in robotics research and the implementation of ..

It seems kind of strange to have a very general first statement followed by a very specific and technical second statement. If I was submitting this in a cover letter, I would join the two ideas together:

"This includes strengthening my knowledge and experience in both robotics research and implementation of developed theory on physical robotic systems."

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First, a disclaimer: I'm not a native English speaker, and my native language has completely different rules on comma usage than English does.

That said, FWIW, I would personally not use commas either before or after "both" here, nor before "as well as". That is to say, I would punctuate your sentence like this:

"This includes strengthening my knowledge in the fundamental subjects of this field, and gaining more experience in both robotics research as well as the implementation of developed theory on physical robotic systems."

I might be tempted to retain the comma before "as well as", where it basically acts as a serial comma, for breathing space, but there's a problem with doing that: it makes the part between the commas ("and gaining more experience in both robotics research") look confusingly like a dependent clause inserted into the middle of the sentence. Technically, the presence of the word "both" should rule out that particular interpretation, but it's easy to miss when reading quickly.

Honestly, though, I suspect the real problem is simply that your sentence is too long and complicated. I'd prefer to break your parts (1) and (2) into separate sentences, which could then be punctuated naturally without ambiguity.

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  1. You need no commas around both.

  2. Both ... as well as is not a legitimate construction. As well as is not a conjunction like and: it is a complex preposition like in addition to (and with a similar meaning). It is not employed to include something within a construction but to append something (often something previously mentioned) to a construction which is complete without it, in the manner of an afterthought

    RULE OF THUMB: Employ as well as only if you can enclose the construction it heads within parentheses.

    Having mastered both German and French (as well as his native English), William felt well prepared to tackle the literature on the subject.

  3. There are far too many nouns and nominals for this sentence to read gracefully. Try to use more verbs and clarify your structure:

    I hope on the one hand to strengthen my knowledge of fundamentals in this field, and on the other to gain practical experience both by conducting original research and by implementing established theory on physical systems.

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