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The company had just started to make money when in 1914 the World War put an end to its aspirations.

OR:

The company had just started to make money when in 1914, the World War put an end to its aspirations

?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Actually neither. It should be:

The company had just started to make money when, in 1914, the World War put an end to its aspirations.

The reason being that "in 1914" is supplemental information, a parenthetical comment. The sentence would read just fine without the extra info.

--- Update to add --- To summarize the (rather lengthy) comments below, this Guide to Punctuation suggests that bracketing commas can sometimes be omitted. I prefer them in this instance, but I can't really argue with those who feel it reads okay without them.

However, as the guide says, you do need both the bracketing commas. Having just the one at the end would be incorrect.

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2  
The phrase "in 1914" is short enough that it doesn't need commas. –  Chan-Ho Suh Aug 18 '12 at 10:44
1  
@Chan-HoSuh You're right. However, in that case, a comma may be justified after 1914: "The company had just started to make money when in 1914, the World War put an end to its aspirations." There are really two independent statements joined by when here. –  Kris Aug 18 '12 at 11:03
2  
@Chan-HoSuh - I suppose you could legitimately omit them, but I prefer it with the commas. –  lindanaughton Aug 18 '12 at 11:26
2  
@Chan-HoSuh - Disagree. Often in the beginning or at the end of a sentence or clause, a short parenthetical phrase or clause can skip commas. Here the parenthetical phrase breaks up the clause "when the World War . . . ." The flow is interrupted, and the commas are needed to reflect that. –  bib Aug 18 '12 at 12:07
3  
@Kris: I disagree. Obviously, "in 1914" is a parenthetical clause. As Chan-Ho Suh says, because it's so short you can get away with omitting the "enclosing" commas. But it's both or neither - you can't keep one and discard the other. –  FumbleFingers Aug 18 '12 at 14:13

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