If you lie, then you're out.
If you do it right, then you can have a cookie.
The above are standard if/then clauses. "If" is a subordinating conjunction introducing a subordinate clause, so it is separated from the main clause, the "then" clause, by an ensuing comma. Now I know that if you leave the "then" implied, that you still use a comma.
If you lie, you're out.
If you do it right, you can have a cookie.
HOWEVER, it has become common to leave the "if" implied as well, but how do you punctuate it?
- You lie, you're out. --or-- You lie; you're out.
- You do it right, you can have a cookie. --or-- You do it right; you can have a cookie.
Part of me thinks that a comma is necessary because the first clause is still subordinate with or without the subordinating conjunction "if." But then another part of me thinks that lacking an explicit "if," it isn't actually a subordinate clause, so the two clauses become interdependent, so a semicolon instead of a comma is called for.
Here's why I think that:
- I like it, but I don't love it.
When we use a conjunction to introduce an additional clause, we separate them with a comma. However, when we omit the conjunction but leave the conjunction implied, we can no longer grammatically use a comma to separate the clauses but must instead use a semicolon.
- I like it; I don't love it.
So following that line of thinking, maybe a semicolon is required in the examples above.
I have searched the internet for how to punctuate if/then sentences when both the "if" and the "then" are implied, but I have not been able to find anything on the subject. All I can find are grammatical explanations for omitting the "then," not the "if" too.
Any light you shed would be greatly appreciated.