Should there be commas before sentence-ending words such as 'too', 'either',  'apparently', 'obviously' and 'respectively'?

  • He wants to go to the mall, too.

  • She's not attending the meeting, either.

  • He is upset, apparently.

  • She won't be going now, obviously.

  • Mike and Bob scored 10 points and 14 points, respectively.

Is there a rule about whether to include or omit the commas?

  • You can do it, either way, just don't go, too overboard.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 28, 2015 at 21:30
  • 1
    You seem to be re-asking questions from around a year ago; this isn't the first of your own questions you have repeated. Please do search the site before asking, and review the questions suggested by the system when you enter your own question title.
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 28, 2015 at 22:17
  • 2
    It's not an exact duplicate. Marius's answer below is a good addition to the general analysis. Mar 28, 2015 at 22:43
  • @Edwin: appreciated. Mar 28, 2015 at 23:46

2 Answers 2


See in the Chicago Manual of Style FAQ, which is publicly available:

Chicago Manual of Style


Q. Please help clarify a debate over what I see as a groundless but persistent carryover from high-school English classes: the comma-before-too “rule.” The rule goes something like this: When “too” is used in the sense of “also,” use a comma before and after “too” in the middle of a sentence and a comma before “too” at the end of a sentence. I am editing a work of fiction in which the author has rigidly applied the rule. I have just as rigidly deleted the commas. My managing editor believes that a comma is needed when “too” refers to an item in a list and has the sense of “in addition” (e.g., “I like apples and bananas, too.”), but she would omit the comma when “too” refers to the subject of the sentence (e.g., “Oh, you like apples and bananas? I like apples and bananas too.”). My managing editor’s rule helps make a useful distinction, but I am still wondering whether the comma is ever grammatically justified.

A. A comma can do some work in making the meaning of a sentence clear, but to claim two different meanings for I like apples and bananas too with and without a comma before too puts too much pressure on the comma. Out of context, neither version would be perfectly clear. To make the different meanings more apparent, short of additional context, you’d have to be more explicit:

I too like apples and bananas.

I like not only apples but bananas too.

Use commas with too only when you want to emphasize an abrupt change of thought:

He didn’t know at first what hit him, but then, too, he hadn’t ever walked in a field strewn with garden rakes.

In most other cases, commas with this short adverb are unnecessary (an exception being sentences that begin with too—in the sense of also—a construction some writers would avoid as being too awkward).


54602 instances of


37350 have a comma

, TOO .

thus comma is much more prevalent "out there" than recommended by CMOS.

Personally, I'd say that whenever the writer wants to suggest a pause/break in speech before "too," in order to make it more emphatic, he/she should use a comma. In fiction, [that would be the case] esp when dealing with characters that prefer inflecsion in speech, or are more "theatral."

  • Your last sentence no predicate.
    – Jim
    Mar 28, 2015 at 20:02
  • I was about to write about how one should avoid style guides, especially CMOS, like the plague. But this is a very good analysis and recommendation. Mar 28, 2015 at 22:46

Punctuation, of course, is not a linguistic issue, but sometimes commas are used at the end of intonation phrases, and where intonational phrases end can be interesting. When "too" is a postmodifier of a noun phrase, it's part of the same intonation phrase as the noun phrase that it modifies, so you wouldn't expect to see a comma before it:

Louise eats [[NP sturgeon] too ].

means she eats sturgeon as well as eating other things. But

Louise [[VP eats sturgeon], too ].

means she eats sturgeon as well as engaging in other activities. And

[[S Louise eats sturgeon], too ].

means Louse eats sturgeon as well as other relevant things being true.

  • Why should we avoid style guides like CMOS? Mar 28, 2015 at 23:49
  • @whippoorwill, it's hard for me to get from what I said in this answer to your question. Linguistics concerns the nature of human language. CMOS concerns how to make written language conform to a prestigious standard. There isn't a lot in common between these two. If you want to work as an editor, you need CMOS. I certainly didn't say you should avoid style guides.
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 29, 2015 at 0:12
  • You didn't ~ Edwin did. Mar 29, 2015 at 0:30
  • Edwin said he was about to. There is some very good stuff in CMOS, and some less good. The trouble with style guides is that they are autocratic; why should we accept what style guide A says when style guide B contradicts it? And not all style guides incorporate the term 'Style Guide' in their names. ELU is not a vehicle for advocating one particular set of choices at the expense of other equally (or sometimes more) valid choices. Mar 29, 2015 at 7:18
  • Well, @Edwin, without wishing to pick a fight, that is the main thing wrong with prescriptive linguistics. It's autocratic and unprincipled, inherently. There's nothing besides the opinion of authority to say what "valid choices" are.
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 29, 2015 at 15:56

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