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Had a discussion with a colleague on the following sentence today:

By default situation A will happen, unless you choose to activate option B.

I have set the comma as indicated above, but my colleague is convince the comma should be after the "unless".

As a non-native speaker I don't feel I have the authority to overrule my colleague but my gut says the comma should be as indicated above. Can someone help me? Thanks.

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The normal usage dictates no comma at all:

By default, situation A will happen unless you choose to activate option B

(the comma after "default" is there because "by default" is an adverbial phrase, and these require a comma if they start a sentence)

Anyway, "unless" here is a dependant word, and as such does not use a comma.

However, in case of a long sentence, you may use a comma to break the sentence into more manageable chunks for easier comprehension:

By default, situation A [, including things D, E and F, as well as potential danger G,] will happen, unless you choose to activate option B [, which will disable things D and F and protect you from G].

  • Hm, would love to see a source for the comma after "default". To me that seems weird. The example is significantly shortened. The original sentence is quite long which is why I'd prefer to insert a comma. Is it wrong to insert a comma, or is it simply optional? (and if it is optional: were do I insert it?) – nanos Feb 3 '17 at 15:13
  • @nanos "by default" is an adverbial phrase and requires a comma if it is in the beginning of the sentence. For the other thing, I am not 100% sure, but I have seen suggestions to use a comma to break up a long sentence. In that case, it is definitely used before the "unless". I will try to find more information on this. – htmlcoderexe Feb 3 '17 at 15:28
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    @nanos I have expanded the answer; turns out you can indeed insert an optional comma before "unless" to make it easier to read. – htmlcoderexe Feb 3 '17 at 17:35

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