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This is a bit of a strange question because I know that there should never ever be a comma after 'and.' But what if there's a parenthetical statement/clause-thing right after it? Let me demonstrate.

She spread her arms, tilted her head back, and, closing her eyes, let the sun warm her face.

Should it be:

She spread her arms, tilted her head back, and closing her eyes, let the sun warm her face.

I feel like the ,and, looks really bulky, but I also feel it's necessary to separate the statement between the commas. Help?

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6  
That is exactly when a comma after a conjunction is legitimate: when it opens a parenthesis. –  StoneyB Jul 17 at 17:55
    
@StoneyB Thank you so much! I'd love to accept your answer for the question, hahah. –  eveline Jul 17 at 17:57
3  
"I know that there should never ever be a comma after 'and' " is pure dogma. Commas are, first and foremost, aids to clarity and comprehensibility. Use them when they are helpful; don't use them when they are not. –  Erik Kowal Jul 17 at 18:04
    
Also, completely unrelated to the comma after the 'and' question, this sentence is not written correctly. Ask yourself this: Which one of these is not like the other. 1. She spread her arms. 2. She tilted her head back. 3. She closing her eyes. <-- See what is wrong here? 4. She let the sun warm her face. Really this sentence should be written with a parenthetical because "closing her eyes" should NOT be parenthetical. It is a serial of actions "She" performs. She performs 4 actions in a serial, not 3 actions with one parenthetical. –  Rhyous Sep 29 at 21:54

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Basically, "there should never ever be a comma after 'and'" is wrong. What you should think instead is that commas do not belong after 'and' in a list:

  • I bought eggs, milk, and, bread. (Wrong! So very wrong!)

and commas also do not belong after using 'and' as a coordinating conjunction:

  • The first sentence is wrong and, this one is too. (Also very wrong!)

However, commas are used around a parenthetical:

  • I, having written both of these terrible sentences, sincerely apologize.

and that is exactly what is happening in your example. The comma is allowed. It is not, however, necessary, because it is at the very start of "closing her eyes, let the sun warm her face" (the final item in your list). It's not needed for the same reason you don't need a comma at the beginning of this sentence:

  • Closing my eyes, I hit "Post Your Answer".
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If you see a comma after a conjunction, it is pretty close to always wrong. There is a normal use, but not usually.

"and" can be used as a coordinating conjunction or as a list or to join two nouns. (This applies to all conjunctions, not just and.)

Coordinating Conjunction:

  • He went to the store and bought milk. (With the pronoun)
  • He went to the store, and he bought milk. (Without the pronoun)

List:

  • He has a pencil, a notebook, and a math book. (Chicago style)
  • He has a pencil, a notebook and a math book. (AP Style)

Join two nouns:

  • Jack and Jill stopped by.
  • The sides were peas and brussel sprouts.

Ok, now in none of these sentences is there a comma after the word "and".

Now, what if you add an interrupter or parenthetical element immediately after the word "and"?

Unfortunately, andyvn22 led you astray ever so slightly by saying the comma is allowed to offset the interrupter or parenthetical element. He forgot the rule that the interrupter or parenthetical element doesn't need a comma at the start if it begins a sentences or follows a conjunction.

Coordinating Conjunction:

  • He went to the store, and with little thought, bought milk. (Without the pronoun)
  • He went to the store, and with little thought, he bought milk. (With the pronoun)

Because these are coordinating conjunctions, the and is already a separator and no additional separator, such as a comma, is needed for the parenthetical element.

In the first sentence, even though a comma is not required because the second sentence cannot stand on its own, the comma is used before the coordinating conjunction because a parenthetical element follows it and strengthens the need for the comma.

List:

  • He has a pencil, a notebook, and just sticking out of his backpack, a math book. (Chicago style)
  • He has a pencil, a notebook, and just sticking out of his backpack, a math book. (AP Style)

Now, AP style will have the comma in this situation, and so both AP and Chicago are the same.

As you see, because "and" is already a separator, you don't need a comma for an interrupter or parenthetical element. However, an interrupter or parenthetical element strengthens the need for a comma before the conjunction. I know this contradicts what andyvn22 says. So a comma is allowed, but it is allowed before the conjunction, not after.

What about this: "A sentence must still be grammatically correct when removing the interrupter or parenthetical element?"

While that statement is correct, that doesn't mean the comma should be after the conjunction. The logical flaw that might lead one to believe this is assuming that when removing the interrupter or parenthetical element that you also remove the conjunction. You don't. The conjunction is not removed with the interrupter or parenthetical element just because a comma precedes the conjunction. Now, removing the interrupter or parenthetical element may weaken the need for a comma and you may end up removing the comma, too, but that doesn't mean the comma or the conjunction were part of the interrupter or parenthetical element.

Join two nouns:

  • Jack and, to my joy, Jill stopped by.
  • The sides were peas and, to my distaste, brussel sprouts.

Here the conjunction is not coordinating, and not already separated by a serial comma.

So, when should and be followed by a comma?

Answer:

  • When the and is not a coordinating conjunction or not in a serial making the serial comma available.
  • When you are talking about the words themselves and not using the word. For example, if you want to list all the conjuctions: and, but, or, yet, for, nor, so. That is the only time a comma should follow a conjunction.

Don't think that just because you see a comma after a conjunction in your favorite author's novel that it is correct. This is a very obscure rule and many, many writers get it wrong.

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How about "when I got home I found my sister and, worse luck, her despicable boyfriend." Would you take the commas out there? I wouldn't. –  Peter Shor Aug 21 at 18:00
    
Peter. Thank you. I was looking through my notes to find that use case. That is correct to have the comma after and because the conjunction is not a coordinating conjunction and the comma is not available before and as it is with the option to use the serial comma. I'll add that as a proper use at the end. –  Rhyous Aug 21 at 18:05
    
One source: grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm See #4 (there is a section about this in the middle) –  Rhyous Aug 21 at 18:13

Your second sentence: "She spread her arms, tilted her head back, and closing her eyes, let the sun warm her face" seems okay to me. Although there is no rule that says not to put comma after and; putting comma before and after and seems too much. If you are giving a list like "pencils, erasers and sharpeners" you don't put comma after and.

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There are some very dogmatic responses here - I believe the Oxford Comma rule might be worth considering.

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/what-is-the-oxford-comma

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2  
The Oxford comma rule is for a list for comma before and in a list. It has little to do with this question which is about a comma after and in any of the possible uses of the word and. –  Rhyous Aug 23 at 22:25

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