I wimped out in answering this question, dropping the commas and going to parentheses in this sentence, because I was not sure of the placement/correctness of commas in this construction. Now I'd like to get clear on how to use commas in this sentence (without reformulating it...no moving "poems", for example), and why. I'm not even sure that conjunction reduction is what causes the awkwardness here...

Wimp version:

I like Lord Byron's (and also enjoy a number of Percy Shelley's) poems.

Now I'm asking, if you use the comma, do you use both commas? It looks mighty strange with "poems" out there by itself:

I like Lord Byron's, and also enjoy a number of Percy Shelley's, poems.

...Or is the comma even required? I don't like this, but is it correct?

I like Lord Byron's and also enjoy a number of Percy Shelley's poems.

  • 1
    Why bother using enjoy? It doesn't bring anything to the party that like hasn't already. And if you leave it out you can do real conjunction reduction: I like Lord Byron's and also a number of Percy Shelley's poems. Commas are, as usual, governed by pronunciation. How would you pronounce it? If you hear the comma, use it; otherwise, not. Sep 6, 2013 at 16:00
  • This is neither here nor there, but I once had a copyeditor who abhorred “a number of” with a fiendish passion. “And just what number did you have in mind there, three? Thirteen? Thirty-seven?” he would scribble at me in withering red. “Don’t write a number of; use several of, some of, many of or even if you must a few of instead,” he would constantly hector. He’s gone now, but like the burnt child who fears fire, I still cringe whenever I catch myself writing a number of, haunted by the posthumous spectre of editorial retribution for what’s really a simple little phrase.
    – tchrist
    Sep 6, 2013 at 18:44
  • @tchrist How did he feel about any number of, as in "There are any number of reasons to object to this"? At least there you're definite about being indefinite.
    – JeffSahol
    Sep 6, 2013 at 19:05
  • @JeffSahol I’m sure he’d’ve again asked me precisely which particular number I’d had in mind. :( Frankly, he probably would have scratched it out and replaced it when something like many.
    – tchrist
    Sep 6, 2013 at 19:24

1 Answer 1


I think your wimp-out answers your question. The phrase and also enjoy a number of Percy Shelley's is effectively a parenthetical and, as such, is set of by commas in lieu of parentheses.

The issue arises because the parenthetical shares an object with the main clause of the sentence. But sharing an object is not really different from sharing a subject, as parentheticals often do

I ate, and enjoyed, the numerous confections on display.

Ironically, you would not need the commas or parentheses if you reordered the sentence

I like Lord Byron's poems and also enjoy a number of Percy Shelley's.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.