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I've always had difficulties in figuring out where commas should be placed. For example, in a phrase containing a conditional statement, how should I write...

  • If they don't arrive by noon, she'll be worried.
  • If they don't arrive by noon she'll be worried.
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2  
Possible duplicate of Comma in conditional sentence and in antithesis. –  RegDwigнt Jun 5 '11 at 8:41

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

So far as I understand it: if you are putting the conditional statement first, you should put the comma at the end of it. You don't need a comma if the conditional statement comes afterwards.

Treat the condition as the independent clause and the result as the dependent as wikipedia describes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma#Separation_of_clauses

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"wikipedia" -> "Wikipedia". Ref: <en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wikipedia#Proper_noun>. –  Peter Mortensen Jun 10 '11 at 8:19

I'm not 100% clear on the rules, or if they even exist, but I often find that a comma does not hurt. The lack of commas in a complex sentence, though, often makes it very hard for me to grasp the meaning in the first read.

Eats shoots and leaves.

versus

Eats, shoots and leaves.

As found here.

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I was once accused by a very particular English professor of sometimes having too many commas in my sentences. He asked what rule I was using to place them. For some, I said the commas are for pauses, for others, they simply follow the standard rules. He did give me an A for the class, which emboldened my continued use of them in that way.

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"english" -> "English" –  Peter Mortensen Jun 10 '11 at 8:20

What you are talking about is a dependent (or subordinate) clause. Commas are required when starting a stentence with dependent clauses. See OWL Online Writing Lab. When the dependent clause is placed at the end of the sentence, a comma is not required. For example:

If I went to London, I would visit Big Ben.

I would visit Big Ben if I went to London.

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This simply restates the accepted answer. –  Chenmunka Jul 10 at 19:05

protected by tchrist Jul 10 at 19:26

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