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I am editing answer explanations for a school curriculum. The more I read the phrase "because although", the more stumped I become on whether there should be a comma between because and although. Here's a basic example:

After a short reading passage, a question asks for the main idea and then gives multiple choice answers. Let's say Choice A is "The narrator hates lemons." The answer explanation then reads:

"Choice A is incorrect because although the narrator does say she hates lemons, this is not the main idea of the passage."

I've been putting a comma ("because, although the narrator does say she hates lemons, this is not the main idea...") because I regard that phrase as parenthetical and unnecessary. Without it, the explanation would read, "Choice A is incorrect because this is not the main idea of the passage." The antecedent for this is in the answer choice. The use of although is more of a concession to the student who misinterpreted the passage (Yes, it does talk about lemons, but that's not the main idea).

So... comma or no comma?

These are read by middle school and high school students and their teachers.

  • Choice A is incorrect because, although the narrator does say she hates lemons, this is not the main idea of the passage. I've italicised the parenthetical here. Although it is usually considered necessary to mark off parentheticals (using commas, parentheses or dashes), it is not an absolute rule, and with a concessionary caveat to the reason for the answer's being wrong, leaving the comma out works well. The only real need to put one in would be for ease of reading ... – Edwin Ashworth Dec 10 '15 at 17:29
  • ( ...because, although the narrator does explain that the reason she became interested in history as a little child was that her father told her such interesting stories about his war experiences, ...). – Edwin Ashworth Dec 10 '15 at 17:30
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It is interesting to see the usage in the NYT. I see instances where a comma is used. I see just as many where it isn't. With one exception in twenty, every article printed prior to 1950 appears to use "because, although." Removing the comma could be a (relatively) new convention.

If students are confused, it should always be possible to restructure the sentence to separate the two words.

"Although the narrator does say she hates lemons, choice A is incorrect because this is not the main idea of the passage."

| improve this answer | |
  • Yes: this is a far less cluttered rewrite. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 10 '15 at 17:31
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My vote: comma. You explained it just fine. However you could have also used a colon.

Choice A is incorrect because: although the narrator does say she hates lemons, this is not the main idea of the passage.

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  • Sorry I gave you a downvote, but you have simply expressed an opinion here and there is no source for your assertion. – Jascol Dec 10 '15 at 16:48

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