1

A comma after "that", midsentence, is increasingly common.

Consider the examples below. Would you consider the commas after "that" to be correct? If you remove the information set off by commas, the sentences still logically connect and make sense.

  • 1.) He said that, after considerable contemplation, he would retire.

  • 2.) She said that, in 1969, she and her husband went to Woodstock.

  • 3.) Please be advised that, on this day in 1954, a resolution was achieved.

Thank you.

  • 3
    What makes you say it's increasingly common. I don't believe you. – Jon Hanna Feb 12 '14 at 17:05
  • From "Parameter Theory and Linguistic Change": said that, according to Maria, it was Ana that went to the movies yesterday'. We conclude that que occupies Fin head when the CP domain is filled by Frame, Topic or Focus, that is, if movement of Fin-to-Force . – whippoorwill Feb 12 '14 at 17:12
  • Here, here (section 4b) and here are three links to articles looking at some modern thoughts on perhaps non-traditional uses of commas. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 12 '14 at 17:13
  • Mr. PELLET ( Special Rapporteur) said that, in the second sentence, the words "to conventions" should be added after the wording "a number of reservations". – whippoorwill Feb 12 '14 at 17:16
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    I think OP's first example is simply clumsy phrasing which the writer has (unsuccessfully) attempted to salvage with commas. The other two are imho less likely today than they once were (from careful writers, I mean - there are obviously more texts from careless/ignorant writers available to us on the Internet than there used to be). I would say the general tendency is to use less commas overall, but Edwin's point that they are sometimes used well in non-traditional ways is valid. – FumbleFingers Feb 12 '14 at 17:32
3

A syntactic parsing of the sentences could help to show what is going on. The word "that" in your examples is a marker of clausal subordination. That is, the word "that" has no semantic meaning.

This is a way to parse your examples:

  • 1.) He said [that, after considerable contemplation, he would retire].

  • 2.) She said [that, in 1969, she and her husband went to Woodstock].

  • 3.) Please be advised [that, on this day in 1954, a resolution was achieved].

Notice how it so happens that in your 3 examples, that the word "that" is necessary to prevent ambiguity or mis-parsing by the reader. Look at what happens when the word "that" is removed:

  • 1.b) He said, after considerable contemplation, he would retire.

  • 2.b) She said, in 1969, she and her husband went to Woodstock.

  • 3.b) Please be advised, on this day in 1954, a resolution was achieved.

Notice how the meanings have now changed: the expression delimited by the commas are now most likely being interpreted as being part of the matrix clause. That is, for #1.b, after he had contemplated for some time, he then said something about retiring. For #2.b, in was in 1969 when she said something. For #3.c, today is a day in 1954 (while the original #3 was saying that 1954 was way in the past, e.g. December 7, 1954 while today is December 7, 2014).

Notice that the way the comma pairs had been inserted in your three original examples is one clear way of making sure the sentences are parsed and interpreted correctly. (If one or other of the commas is removed, then the sentence might be misinterpreted.)

But some writers, especially for fiction prose, might do their comma punctuation differently. For instance, it is possible that one of the commas might be omitted (for a lighter punctuation style) in similar sentences. But care needs to be used to make sure that the word "that" doesn't then accidentally become a word with meaning (instead of a mere marker), and to make sure that the result doesn't create a sentence with a different meaning from the original.

Summary: In your examples, the word "that" is a marker of clausal subordination. In your examples, they are markers of the beginning of a declarative content clause. The pairs of commas help the reader to parse the expressions within the subordinate declarative content clauses correctly.

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