For example,

If you vote, you can have a say.

Or you'd also have to put a comma after any other dependent clause beginning a sentence. So we should put a comma after dependent clause—why?

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    For the same reason you should put a period at the end of a sentence. – p.s.w.g Jul 11 '13 at 18:22
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    Not at all. Periods indicate a Full Stop intonation, just like a semicolon. Commas indicate a Comma intonation, which may or may not be present, depending on how the author would pronounce the sentence. With a short introductory clause there may be no need for a comma dip, for instance. – John Lawler Jul 11 '13 at 20:12

It is not required to put a comma after a dependent clause, and some writers don't. Here are two examples from journalists writing in today's Guardian newspaper:

Unless the public gets angry enough to force a rethink we had better hope that at least the computer stays risk-averse.

Every time a "periodic" falls off the wagon they hit the ground harder.

Nevertheless, except in the case of very short dependent clauses, it is generally courteous to the reader to insert a comma, since it makes the sentence easier to parse. In some cases omitting the comma will result in a momentary ambiguity:

While I was cooking my daughter did her homework.

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    Voting Smith any increase in salary becomes far less likely is not the same as Voting Smith, any increase in salary becomes far less likely. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 11 '13 at 21:24
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    @Edwin. Indeed, the little comma has the power to turn the meaning of a sentence into its opposite. In the first of the following, she didn't leave; in the second she did. She didn't leave, because he lied. She didn't leave because he lied. (She left because she was tired.) – Shoe Jul 12 '13 at 6:20

If you do so, it will be because it marks a prosodic break in the sentence: If you vote and you can have a say are separate breath groups. There may or may not be an audible pause between them, but there will almost certainly not be a pause elsewhere and no pause between vote and you.

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    I have one problem with this answer: it might lead someone to believe that we should use commas so that they align with pauses. Some guidance (like that found here and here) would deem that as inaccurate. (Incidentally, those links have a lot of information that might help the O.P.) – J.R. Jul 11 '13 at 19:06
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    Not pauses, not breaks. It's an intonation dip. And we should use commas so they align with such dips. – John Lawler Jul 11 '13 at 20:14

There's no why for everything in languages. A comma is more like a short pause between clauses, words and phrases. In the case you mentioned, the comma would make it clearer and easier to read. If you don't care about the clarity of your sentence, you can drop the comma and it would still be fine– just a little harder to read.

  • There may be a why for most things in languages, but many of them may have been lost in the mists of time. Though admittedly, some of the why 's may be pretty poor reasons. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 12 '13 at 14:08

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