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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"?

share|improve this question
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 E. Эллен May 16 '12 at 19:02
The rule you were taught is loony raving madness. – JSBձոգչ May 16 '12 at 19:07
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
@David Which is what the OP failed to see. – Kris May 16 '12 at 20:17
@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
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)

share|improve this answer
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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