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I have a sentence where I'm unsure about the necessity of a comma before "which":

The description is supplemented by practical examples and a documentation of member functions[,] which can be extended depending on the needs of the user.”

I am trying to imply that the member functions can be extended (not the practical examples!)

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  • No. This may be writing advice but, use that rather than which and maybe also an Oxford comma for better clarity: "The description is supplemented by practical examples , (Oxford comma) and a documentation of member functions that can be extended depending on the needs of the user.” -- That hopefully will remove any ambiguity. – Kris Apr 18 '15 at 10:58
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    Not "a documentation" but simply "documentation". You can also say: "....documentation of user-extensible member functions" to avoid the "which" issue altogether, and make clear that these functions can be extended by the user. – TRomano Apr 18 '15 at 12:01
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    Another way to clarify that only the member functions are extensible: ". . . examples, and by documentation. . . " – Brian Hitchcock Apr 18 '15 at 12:14
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    @Kris: That is not an Oxford comma. Oxford comma applies only to lists of three items or more. We have two items here. – RegDwigнt May 18 '15 at 12:28
  • @TimRomano but if you remove the "a" it changes the meaning. – michael_timofeev Sep 16 '15 at 1:36
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Comma before the and:

The description is supplemented by practical examples, and a documentation of member functions which can be extended depending on the needs of the user.

To be perfectly, and almost painfully, clear:

The description is supplemented by practical examples and a documentation of member functions. The documentation of member functions can be extended depending on the needs of the user.

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  • +1 for creating a second sentence. We should not accept the premise of the original question, namely, that the which-clause needs to be tacked onto the sentence somehow. The sentence contains two distinct ideas a) the description, which includes examples and documentation and b) the extensibility of the member functions. The second idea deserves its own sentence. There's nothing painful at all about creating a second sentence. – TRomano Sep 16 '15 at 11:21
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I'd do it this way:

The description is supplemented by practical examples and a documentation of member functions, functions which can be extended depending on the needs of the user.”

Clarity overrides avoiding repetition, IMO.

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  • I just did some checking on the use of dashes, and it seems that the comma is OK, but a dash is better in this case. – michael_timofeev Sep 16 '15 at 1:45

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