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I often find myself putting excess commas and brackets (parentheses for all you US English speakers out there) into sentences, in hopes of rendering it more 'readable'.

The trouble is, I am never sure just how much is too much and often need to seek the services of an adjudicator.

However, this time no one could decide: how should the following phrase be punctuated? Like this, without commas?

During the Great Depression the Nazi Party gained a lot of popularity because they promised to make Germany great again and there was nothing the German people as a whole wanted more.

Or like this, with only one comma?

During the Great Depression the Nazi Party gained a lot of popularity because they promised to make Germany great again, and there was nothing the German people as a whole wanted more.

Or like this, with two commas?

During the Great Depression, the Nazi Party gained a lot of popularity because they promised to make Germany great again, and there was nothing the German people as a whole wanted more.

What option is the most grammatical and readable?

  • Back when I went through elementary school in the 50s there were very rigid (though arcane) rules for inserting commas, with the only general limitation being that there should normally not be more commas than words in the sentence. But in the late 50s the "when in doubt, leave it out" rule was formulated, and, while certainty went out the window, things got a lot more readable. Since then the rules have waffled back and forth several times, but the general rule to use commas to pace a sentence without overusing them remains. – Hot Licks Nov 6 '14 at 3:09
  • ,as a whole, -could have some, too. However all of them are unnecessary because at no point is a pause needed. I would have trouble typing 'during the thing,' without a comma, but have no trouble reading the sentence without any. -wow, no brackets (proud of myself)... – Mazura Nov 6 '14 at 3:15
  • @Mazura - you let yourself down at the end there.... – user72323 Nov 6 '14 at 3:17
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    “During the Great Depression, the Nazi Party gained popularity by promising to restore Germany to its former greatness, for following the punitive and humiliating Treaty of Versailles, there was nothing the German people more earnestly desired.” – tchrist Nov 6 '14 at 4:04
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Ditch commas; (and) begin over-zealously replacing words: (with) colons!

During the Great Depression the Nazi Party gained a lot of popularity; they promised to make Germany great again and there was nothing the German people wanted more.

  • That and could be a colon too... – Mazura Nov 6 '14 at 4:02
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I prefer your third version:

During the Great Depression, the Nazi Party gained a lot of popularity because they promised to make Germany great again, and there was nothing the German people as a whole wanted more.

This is on the grounds that here the commas delimit the sense units of the sentence, and also mark the places where it would be natural for a speaker or reader to pause briefly to draw breath.

Your first version, where commas are omitted entirely, is unpleasantly breathless. The lack of pauses makes it harder to make sense of the sentence without rereading it at least once.

It is a disservice to one's readers to needlessly transform the potentially pleasurable activity of reading into a tedious chore.

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Being a traditionalist, I tend to err on the side of punctuation. I like to isolate qualifiers and quantifiers as their own entity, along with the division of segment parts. I would likely have divided this statement into two sentences, however.

eg. (as one)

During the Great Depression, the Nazi Party gained a lot of popularity because they promised to make Germany great again, and there was nothing the German people, as a whole, wanted more.

eg. (as two)

During the Great Depression, the Nazi Party gained a lot of popularity because they promised to make Germany great again. There was nothing the German people, as a whole, wanted more.

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