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I was always taught that one of the primary uses of a comma is for when you're divvying up unnecessary parts of sentences (I'll just go ahead and assume that was right). So, when I'm constructing sentences I will read the sentence without the sections that have been sectioned off by commas and, if it makes sense, I will proceed on to the next sentence.

One thing I have noticed, though, (particularly with the word "but") is that people tend to construct certain sentences like this:

"I'm not particularly one for this type of music, but I love this song."

Now, in this case, the first part of the sentence is the unnecessary part. So, without the first part, it would read:

"But I love this song."

This obvious makes no sense, as it is out of context and was not a reply to anything. Were it me, I would have constructed it like this:

"I'm not particularly one for this type of music but, I love this song."

This way, without the first part it would read

"I love this song."

which, obviously, makes more sense.

So, which way of constructing the sentence is "right"?

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So, in your new construction, if you remove the bit after the comma you have a sentence ending in but. Does that make sense? –  Matt Эллен May 16 '12 at 19:02
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The rule you were taught is loony raving madness. –  JSBձոգչ May 16 '12 at 19:07
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To the extent that the rule is fine, it doesn't apply when the "unnecessary part" is a complete sentence. One use for commas is to set off a parenthetical inside a thought. Another use for commas is to join two complete thoughts with a conjunction. These two different uses have different rules. –  David Schwartz May 16 '12 at 20:08
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@David Which is what the OP failed to see. –  Kris May 16 '12 at 20:17
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@LewisCarroll, I didn't see your answer, but if Cerberus thinks it was the right answer, it probably was. You can always flag an answer and ask a moderator to be sure that there wasn't "malicious downvoting" going on. Also, check your answer for typos and errors; sometimes people just want you to clean it up a little and then will upvote it when you do. Please don't be discouraged or deprive the OP of a correct answer. –  JLG May 17 '12 at 14:13
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1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

When independent clauses are joined by and, but, or, so, yet, or any other conjunction, a comma usually precedes the conjunction. If the clauses are very short and closely connected, the comma may be omitted unless the clauses are part of a series.

"We activated the alarm, but the intruder was already inside."

The Chicago Manual of Style (6.28)

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Thank you little oligarch for your down vote. –  user21032 May 16 '12 at 19:13
    
"a comma usually precedes the conjunction". So my sentence would be the correct one? –  mythofechelon May 16 '12 at 19:16
    
"When independent clauses are joined by and, but, or, so, yet, or any other conjunction, a comma usually precedes the conjunction" so "I'm not particularly one for this type of music, but I love this song." is correct, albeit the first thing to say is that punctuation is a typographical convention rather than a matter of grammar. –  user21032 May 16 '12 at 19:25
    
Hi @LewisCarroll - If you are quoting a source, please note that you can use the blockquote (Ctrl-Q, looks like a quotation mark) format. This is important so it is clear which part is from the reference and which part is your own. For instance, I formatted your answer above, but since I don't have the reference available, I cannot tell for sure if the example sentence is your own or also part of the CMOS quote. –  aedia λ May 16 '12 at 19:27
    
Thank you @aedia –  user21032 May 16 '12 at 19:30
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