Is comma needed here?

  1. "inexpensive, but effective, resources"

Can comma splices be used instead of "that" and "and" here?

  1. It is clear, X destroys homes, businesses.
  • 2
    (1) The commas are not 'needed', but signal a 'pause for reflexion / contrastive emphasis'. Dashes would strengthen this effect. (2) I'd guess that most editors would find this unacceptable. They might allow the second comma if the first were replaced by a colon, but if the intention is to write something punchier than the standard version (with 'that' and 'and'), two sentences (dropping the 'that' but retaining the 'and') add dramatic effect. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 15 '14 at 3:34
  • 1
    Good suggestions. For (1) it can't be just dashes/hyphen, correct? It has to be an emdash or something like that. Re (2), the second comma-splice is common in poetic forms, but so can appear somewhat poetic if used in formal writing. But without "that" it's technically incorrect grammar. Even if we don't add "that", we assume that it's there. – Joe Black Dec 15 '14 at 3:52
  • 1
    'Has to be' doesn't come into it (except for some poor people). Wikipedia is sensible: 'Usage varies both within English and in other languages, but the usual convention in printed English text is: ... Either version may be used to denote a break in a sentence or to set off parenthetical statements (ideally with intradocument consistency). Style and usage guides vary,[1] but often in this function en dashes are used with spaces and em dashes are used without them[2]' ... – Edwin Ashworth Dec 15 '14 at 3:58
  • 2
    The second example sounds like a newspaper headline. It's common to omit less significant words like "that" and "and" for the sake of brevity. I don't think it's considered a grammatical sentence. – Barmar Dec 16 '14 at 19:47

A comma is used to create a pause. Commas are needed in other specific instances such as lists. The phrase "inexpensive, but effective, resources" works without the commas and with the commas. The pause in the middle of the sentence may be more annoying to readers, however.

The phrase "It is clear, X destroys homes, businesses." is not grammatically correct. The comma should not be used to replace insignificant words. It is only done in headlines and even then it is used exclusively for newspaper headlines and the like. (Headlines are more art then writing: see the link below.)



In the first sentence, no commas are necessarily needed, because "but effective" is not a nonessential clause/phrase that doesn't have a coordinating/subordinating conjunction, a lengthy phrase or dependent clause, or an introductory clause or phrase. However, it improves clarity and emphasis to put commas surrounding "but effective" to separate contrasting coordinate elements and/or to indicate a pause. The Purdue University suggests that these types of phrases are placed at the end of the sentence, perhaps because to avoid too much interrupting pauses in sentences:

The resources are inexpensive, but effective.

See number 7 on Purdue University English Comma Usage for more details. It is not a firm rule, however, so it is okay to place "but effective" in the middle of sentence; just don't overuse it in a paragraph or essay, as in not having it appear twice in the same paragraph to avoid over-pausing.

Also, like Edwin suggested in a comment, em dashes instead of commas may be an option. Using em dashes "--" are useful for setting off parenthetical clauses/phrases that completely interrupt a sentence. However, they are best used to in place of parentheses, rather than commas because they "break" off the sentence (like how dashes are used to signal dialogue being cut off), so I wouldn't recommend them in your sentence.

In the second sentence, it would be technically incorrect grammar, yes. It is, though, perfectly fine to use in poems and informal writing for the purpose of emphasis and addition of drama. I have also seen these comma splices used in titles of Internet articles, and I suppose it would be fine for physical newspapers and articles as well (though I don't have any experience with those). It should not be used for non-poetic formal writing like informational essays, research papers, and such, where grammar is considered. One note is that "is clear, X destroys" indicates an omission of "that" so it would seem grammatically correct but since the omission of "that" almost always results in no comma in between, it would still be considered a comma splice.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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