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Why is there a comma after sickness. The second part of this sentence is a dependent clause. Therefore, shouldn't the comma before 'and' be ommitted?

"I don't know a fig about my sickness, and am not sure what it is that hurts me"

Any help would be appreciated.

closed as off-topic by Drew, Scott, user140086, jimm101, NVZ Jan 3 '17 at 17:14

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  • Similar question for the following sentence: "I was rude, and took pleasure in it." – bugsyb Jan 2 '17 at 22:52
  • In that link^ it says that "When a coordinating conjunction is used to connect a dependent clause, a comma is never used" So shouldn't the comma be omitted? – bugsyb Jan 2 '17 at 23:03
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    I would argue that your two clauses are independent - not dependent. You could quite readily omit the first clause and say "I am not sure what it is that hurts me." – TrevorD Jan 2 '17 at 23:22
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    The issue here is that all comma matters are matters of style not of grammar. People use them to express different things, and always have. What you call a rule here is really just something simplistic to say to help guide people who do not know how to write. – tchrist Jan 2 '17 at 23:24
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After reading a bit on the internet, I think I've figured out the answer to my question.

Strunk and White's style guide says that "When the subject is the same for both clauses and is expressed only once, a comma is useful if the connective is but. When the connective is and, the comma should be omitted if the relation between the two statements is close or immediate.

The case mentioned in the original question was the following:

"I don't know a fig about my sickness, and am not sure what it is that hurts me"

In this case, the subject is the same for both clauses and is expressed only once, and the relation between the two statements is not close or immediate. The second statement is distinct and emphasizes a slightly different point. Therefore the comma makes stylistical sense.

If, on the other hand, the sentence had been closer to "He has years' experience and is thoroughly competent", it would have been grammatically correct to omit the comma since the two statements are very closely related.

Let me know if this makes sense, and if I'm interpreting it correctly.

  • That sounds right, yes. – tchrist Jan 3 '17 at 1:17
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    As you note, this is a style guideline. It is not about English grammar. It should be off-topic here. – Drew Jan 3 '17 at 2:41
  • @Drew Punctuation is a stylistic mechanism to allow readers to parse unidirectional linear text into its syntactical structure, which is anything but unidirectional and linear. Thus punctuation is on-topic here. – deadrat Jan 3 '17 at 5:05
  • Punctuation is there to guide your reader to the right parse. A comma here prevents a reader from expecting a sentence like "I don't know a fig about my sickness and disability." – deadrat Jan 3 '17 at 5:09
  • But @deadrat it is a general reference question, as proven by this answer, written by the asker. So it should be closed as GR. – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Jan 3 '17 at 7:41

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