There is often talk about when to use a comma before conjunctions, but what about when to use them before and after? I would typically write the below sentence as follows:

There is a weight of expectation on her, but, judging by her recent performance in class, she has a great shot at getting into Harvard.

I have seen many things online that say you really should not be using commas after "but" and only before when it starts an independent clause. However, there are those times when you need to use them both before and after.

It does make the sentence look choppy when you use a comma before and afterwards, but it is technically correct comma usage from what I can see? Would it be perfectly correct to just omit the second comma in order to create a smoother sentence:

There is a weight of expectation on her, but judging by her recent performance in class, she has a great shot at getting into Harvard.

Which is correct?

  • 4
    It is at least technically correct. The first comma separates the initial clause from the one that begins with "but". The second comma (and the third) sets aside the parenthetical phrase that has been inserted into the "but" clause.. And, in my opinion, omitting the second comma makes the sentence harder to read and understand.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 19:16
  • 2
    Those who damn all commas following and or but are oversimplifying, not allowing for parenthetical insertions like yours between the conjunction and the clause it introduces. They mean only to discourage punctuation like "Hal is tall but, Phil is taller." Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 19:26
  • This question has a lot in common with Comma issue: noun of direct address in the middle of the sentence after conjunction, although the issue is posed more broadly here.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


Both are perfectly correct. If you have a style guide, you may wish to consult its preference on this subject.

For what it's worth, the Elements of Style (a popular-but-controversial American style guide) endorses the latter:

If a dependent clause, or an introductory phrase requiring to be set off by a comma, precedes the second independent clause, no comma is needed after the conjunction.

The situation is perilous, but if we are prepared to act promptly, there is still one chance of escape.

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