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I couldn't find this question on here, and I've tried scouring the Internet, but to no avail. It's quite possible I'm just not searching with the appropriate keywords.

The question is regarding comma use in a sentence such as this:

I'm going out tonight, and, if you come along with me, we'll have a nice time.

Upon reduction, I (insubordinate) + C (conjunction) + S (subordinate) + I is the sentence structure. In my line of work, I commonly see I,CS,I. To me this seems incorrect. My belief is it should be I,C,S,I as above, unless the S is sufficiently small to allow for I,CSI.

Can anyone clarify this for me?

EDIT: Because the initial example was not the greatest, I've provided another to illustrate.

We're funding 5,500 to his Roth IRA, and, once we receive her permission, we'll be doing the same to hers.

Of note is the S is in no way nonessential, yet I feel all commas are necessary here. The second comma seems required with the inverted clause order

  • I believe that if you want a pause after the conjunction, you can use a semicolon before the conjunction and a comma after. Pretty sure commas before and after are wrong. Might have time to research it for a proper answer later. – DCShannon May 28 '15 at 1:24
  • You could also break out the subordinate with dashes. – DCShannon May 28 '15 at 1:25
  • Great suggestions. It's unfortunate we have strict guidelines around dash use where I work. I think the semicolon might be the best way to avoid the situation. Still I would like to know the comma-particular case. Surely it requires the comma before, but, similar to this parenthetical here, I feel it may require after as well. – Stefan Katz May 28 '15 at 1:32
  • I was so surprised by Yoav's answer that I began researching to see if I was crazy. Here's some advice in line with what I've been taught. Here's one that says that that is an outdated practice. This is pretty much the advice I remember from school. – DCShannon May 28 '15 at 1:58
  • Thanks for the links. I definitely agree with them on all counts, and they, too, seem to point toward semicolon as the winner. Yet it would be nice to know definitively if the comma version is acceptable. – Stefan Katz May 28 '15 at 2:07
-1

You're overthinking this.

Punctuation Placement

The meaning of the sentences you're considering is not determined by the presence of a single comma. It's determined by the content of the clauses.

Example Sentences

  1. We're funding 5,500 to his Roth IRA, and, once we receive her permission, we'll be doing the same to hers.
  2. We're funding 5,500 to his Roth IRA, and once we receive her permission, we'll be doing the same to hers.
  3. We're funding 5,500 to his Roth IRA, and once we receive her permission we'll be doing the same to hers.

Those all have the same meaning.

The first has pauses on both sides of "once we receive her permission". The speaker is heavily emphasizing this clause. We don't know why without context. Maybe they've been having trouble getting her permission. Maybe the permission is just really, really important. Maybe somebody in the room forgot to get permission last time and it turned into a big thing. Regardless of the reason the speaker chose to emphasize this clause, the essential meaning of the sentence is still that they're going to fund this guy's Roth IRA, and then they'll do it for this lady once they get her permission.

The 2nd emphasizes the clause a bit, but not as much. The pause at the end gives you time to stop and let it sink in before moving on. The comma also helps to break up the sentence a little bit to make it easier to distinguish clauses and read.

In the third, everything after the comma comes out in a steady stream. I would expect this phrasing if everyone understands that we'll need to get permission, and it's mostly just a formality.

So they have slightly different emphasis, but they all have the same meaning.

Punctuation Choice

Let's say that you've decided to use the first form, with punctuation on both sides of 'and'. I think it would be hard to argue that 'and' qualifies as a clause all by itself, yet there it is, isolated by commas. This looks strange, and obfuscates the fact that the division between the first independent clause and the second is much more significant than the division between the conjunction and the remaining sentence.

In this situation, it is advised to use a semicolon to separate the two independent clauses, leaving you with:

We're funding 5,500 to his Roth IRA; and, once we receive her permission, we'll be doing the same to hers.

-2

EDIT: In the original answer, I tried to make a formal point using OP's original sentence, whose content was not suited to making that point. I have edited my answer to use a slightly different example.

I believe there is a potential difference between the two variations. With the comma, "S" is implied to be a parenthetical insertion. Without it, "S" is implied to be integral to the sentence. Consider the following sentences:

(1) I'm going out tonight, and you can come along, if you want.

(2) I'm going out tonight, and you can come along if you want.

(3) I'm going out tonight, and, if you want, you can come along.

(4) I'm going out tonight, and if you want, you can come along.

In (1), "if you want" is very clearly a parenthetical. In (2), it's integral. If you want to use an ordering where "you can come along" appears at the end, then whether you should use (3) or (4) depends on whether you mean something equivalent to (1) or something equivalent to (2). You should use (3) if you mean (1), and if you mean (2), you should use (4).

-4

The very simple approach is that this is "a sentence":

I'm going out tonight.

And this is "a sentence":

If you come along with me we'll have a nice time.

There's no reason at all for a comma in that second sentence, so forget that.

Join the two sentences any way you prefer.

I'm going out tonight, and if you come along with me we'll have a nice time.

I'm going out tonight, and, if you come along with me we'll have a nice time.

I'm going out tonight: if you come along with me we'll have a nice time.

I'm going out tonight. If you come along with me we'll have a nice time.

I'm going out tonight, and I tell you what honey, if you come along with me we'll have a nice time.

I'm going out tonight, and I say old chap, if you come along with me we'll have a nice time.

It's worth noting that the given fragment is incredibly awkward. It's not like voice-over writing, it's not like transcription of typical spoken patter, and it's not how you'd write it.

You can tie yourself in knots trying to find "the perfect punctuation" for something that is, anyway, totally awkward.

Don't forget that the last comma just shouldn't be there.

Conversely you could assert that the middle part is an interjection: So..

I'm going out tonight and we'll have a nice time.

I'm going out tonight and - assuming you come along with me - we'll have a nice time.

But that's just dumb, wrong, since then it would be "we're" going out tonight. Once again, the sentence is simply awkward and silly -- you can tie yourself in knots trying to find "the perfect punctuation" for something that is, anyway, totally awkward, indeed "wrong".

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