4

I often come across this following type of phrase:

This fungus is a decomposer of hardwoods and traditionally other fungi in this family have been used as popular folk or oriental medicines to treat various human diseases.

My first instinct is, of course, to place a comma before the “and” to separate the two noun-verb phrases, as follows:

This fungus is a decomposer of hardwoods, and traditionally other fungi in this family have been used as popular folk or oriental medicines to treat various human diseases.

Then, my second instinct is to separate the word “traditionally” by commas.

This fungus is a decomposer of hardwoods, and, traditionally, other fungi in this family have been used as popular folk or oriental medicines to treat various human diseases.

Yet, I always end up thinking that the “and” separated by two commas on either side just looks weird, even though this appears to me to be grammatically and syntactically correct.

Of course, I know there are other options, like simply creating two separate phrases or slightly rephrasing by moving "traditionally" between "have" and "been" (". . . have traditionally been used as . . ."), but I often come across this construction or variations of this construction.

Perhaps, I am looking to see if this latter construction (separating the "and" with commas on either side) is indeed correct or if there are better ways of dealing with this issue/type of construction.

  • Don't look at the comma-and-comma as a set, which it is not. The set would be comma-traditionally-comma for the single word traditionally, as an aside like this, to set up the whole ensuing clause as being traditional. Placed right after have, it needs no commas. – Yosef Baskin Mar 8 '17 at 19:15
  • 1
    My first instinct is to break the two unrelated pieces into separate sentences. They don't belong together. – Hot Licks Mar 9 '17 at 23:13
1

Your first instinct is correct. The conceptual rule you're applying is most easily described this way: The comma before the "and" is an indicator that what follows the "and" is referring to something earlier in the sentence. That is, "other fungi in this family" is referring to "the fungus", not "hardwoods". Following this rule will help you know when commas should appear in large sentences, and when they should not.

That comma should stay.

Your second instinct, to add additional commas around "traditionally", is an attempt to correct the flow of the sentence when read, by inserting additional pauses so that "traditionally" is given separate emphasis. It is correct insofar as it doesn't break any rules, but it's also a warning sign: Sentences that force the reader to pause too often are irritating to read and can disrupt comprehension. If you feel the need to insert commas just to slow down the reader, or add emphasis where they naturally wouldn't, then you are better off reforming the sentence.

So take your second instinct seriously, but consider a range of solutions, rather than just adding the commas.

| improve this answer | |
  • Hi @mile42, welcome to English Language & Usage. Thanks for the answer, but ELU encourages responses which demonstrate some degree of research effort. Can your answer be backed up with cited sources? – freeling10 Mar 10 '17 at 1:10
  • 1
    Hello @freeling10! I'm not sure what qualifies as an adequate source, but the [Capital Community College Foundation Grammar Guide] (grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm) explains the rule I identified in the 'first instinct' as using "a comma plus a little injunction to connect two independent clauses." I consider my description more accurate because it assumes that the clauses are not entirely independent (or they would be better reformed as sentences.) – mile42 Mar 10 '17 at 6:29
  • 1
    It then goes on to explain why the second instinct is wrong, thus: "When a parenthetical element — an interjection, adverbial modifier, or even an adverbial clause — follows a coordinating conjunction used to connect two independent clauses, we do not put a comma in front of the parenthetical element." In this case we're talking about an interjection. I do not see this is a hard-and-fast grammar rule but a common tactic to improve clarity, so I'm leaving the decision about how to correct it a little more open. P.S.: Why can't I use any of the advanced formatting in comments? – mile42 Mar 10 '17 at 6:34
0

There is indeed a trick you can use. It is optional.

This fungus is a decomposer of hardwoods and, traditionally, other fungi in this family have been used as popular folk or oriental medicines to treat various human diseases.

To use this trick in a situation like this, you omit the first of the two commas that are too close for comfort.

| improve this answer | |
0

Remove the "and", and structure in one of many ways, seperating facts into two sentences, adding a comma in it's place, or structuring the sentance thusly, e.g. This fungi that naturaly decomposes hardwoods has different family genomes that have been used in folk and herbal medicines in the Orient to heal human diseases.

| improve this answer | |
0

In your example, the sentence is simply two independent clauses combined with a conjunction. For that, a comma (British "half stop") MUST preceed the conjunction. As to "traditionally", it is an adjective much too far away from the verb. Put it near the verb, add the comma, and all is well.

"This fungus is a decomposer of hardwoods, and other fungi in this family have traditionally been used as popular folk or oriental medicines to treat various human diseases."

As to "but I often come across this construction or variations of this construction," that is not important. If 10,000 people make the same mistake, it isn't proof of anything.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.