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Which of the following is most grammatically correct?

  1. In Boston, and other cities above a certain size, public transit is paid for with an RFID card.
  2. In Boston and other cities above a certain size, public transit is paid for with an RFID card.
  3. In Boston, and in other cities above a certain size, public transit is paid for with an RFID card.
  4. In Boston and in other cities above a certain size, public transit is paid for with an RFID card.

The odd-numbered ones have a first comma the others don't, and the higher-numbered ones have an extra "in" that the first two don't.

I think the first comma is needed to offset the phrase, indicating that the sentence can be read without that part of it.

I'm not sure if the "in" is really necessary and am partial to removing unnecessary words for more concise writing, but would like to leave in anything grammatically needed.

I don't think the phrase "and other cities above a certain size" is an appositive, because it's not another word or phrase for Boston that would be a nonrestrictive descriptor (e.g. "In Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, ..."), nor does it qualify as a clause. The phrase expands the set which becomes the setting of the sentence and thus broadens its meaning or application.

  • No, and 2. The comma is not needed, and no need to duplicate "in." – KWinker Jul 19 '16 at 3:37
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    The commas indicate that the other cities are an aside, extraneous information to the main discussion about Boston. Leave out the commas, and your main point concerns several cities, not just Boston. – deadrat Jul 19 '16 at 3:48
  • @deadrat You don't think that sentence needs any commas at all? (The fact that the main clause of the sentence applies to other cities is an aside; someone could skip over that without missing the main point of the sentence but could also get additional information from reading that aside.) – WBT Jul 19 '16 at 4:05
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    @WBT If the discussion is about cities (with Boston the first mentioned), then to my taste, the introductory prepositional phrase is long enough to merit a following comma. If the discussion is about Boston, with an aside about other cities, then a comma should follow Boston. I can't tell which the author intends. – deadrat Jul 19 '16 at 4:58
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    Then that should tell you where to put the commas, no? – deadrat Jul 19 '16 at 6:00
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Commas are to clarify on the meaning and emphasis as you intend them. You need to make up your own resolve. You can try re-positioning. It does not always work, but it could with your examples.

1. In Boston, and other cities above a certain size, public transit is paid for with an RFID card.

Re-positioned: Public transit is paid for with an RFID card, in Boston and other cities above a certain size.

2. You can try some flexibility on the connective, too.

In Boston, as in other cities above a certain size, public transit is paid for with an RFID card.

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  • Comment: Re-positioning works better for sentences in isolation, like the one presented here, than sentences in context where you want to have the starting concept match a topic that's already been introduced, and then put the new concept later in the sentence. – WBT Jul 21 '16 at 23:02

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