Here's an example:

Should I use it or not?


Should I use it, or not?

Which one is correct?

  • 1
    50 years ago the "prescription" was that you should use the comma, then the rules started shifting in favor of fewer commas. The simplest rule still is "When in doubt, leave it out." That and consider how you want the sentence pronounced -- if you WANT a pause between "it" and "or" then put the comma there, otherwise not.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 23, 2015 at 2:36

1 Answer 1


You should not use it.

Generally, the rule of thumb is not to use a comma in sentences like yours when the second alternative is very short. Normally, this means that the sentence does not contain two subject/predicate combinations, such as:

  • Should I watch this movie on TV, or should I get my homework done?
  • You can wallow in self-pity, or you can stand up for yourself.

Avoid using commas to set off short phrases such as "or not." We don't write, for example, "Believe it, or not" or "Ready, or not."

  • Commas have acceptable 'extra-grammatical' (ie not disambiguating different structures) usages too. If I wanted to signal a 'pause for thought' here, I might well go with the heavier-duty dash, though: Should I use it – or not? rather than Should I use it, or not? All three examples are quite acceptable. [Though some teachers, editors etc might be more prescriptive.] Feb 23, 2015 at 10:23

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