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I cannot figure out whether or not I need a comma between the word "cigarettes" and "according" in the following sentence:

More college students are using marijuana daily than smoking cigarettes according to a national survey released Tuesday.

My gut tells me the first clause is independent and the second dependent, which would mean I do not need a comma. Is this correct? Am I correct in thinking independent clause + dependent clause does not need a comma?

  • I'm wondering how one smokes cigarettes according to a survey, national or otherwise. – Hot Licks Sep 4 '16 at 22:23
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You are certainly allowed a comma between an independent and dependent clause where there is large contrast. In this case, a comma appears appropriate.

You could also reword the sentence: According to a national survey added Tuesday, ...

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Generally (according to the Oxford Dictionaries online):

A comma marks a slight break between different parts of a sentence. Used properly, commas make the meaning of sentences clear by grouping and separating words, phrases, and clauses.

From the Wikipedia page:

In English, a comma is used to separate a dependent clause from the independent clause if the dependent clause comes first: After I fed the cat, I brushed my clothes. (Compare this with I brushed my clothes after I fed the cat.)

In your sentence:

  • Independent clause: More college students are using marijuana daily than smoking cigarettes
  • Dependent clause: according to a national survey released Tuesday

So, you can use a comma like this:

More college students are using marijuana daily than smoking cigarettes, according to a national survey released Tuesday.

  • although, when separating clauses, as opposed to phrases, or a clause and a phrase, a semi-colon should be used... At least according to what I vaguely remember from high school. – Brad Apr 7 '16 at 18:10

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