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Is the comma necessary after "life" in the following text?

Compare when Alan is told in a philosophy class that X is good for life , and/with when he is told the same in a TV program.

Sure, it makes the sentence less ambiguous, but doesn't it at the same time ruin the logical structure of the sentence. In the following sentence, for example, we would say the comma ruins the logical structure of the sentence.

Compare A , and/with B.

Also, any other way to say my first sentence with no comma issue would be appreciated.

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It is not strictly necessary. I would suggest:

"Compare when Alan is told that X is good for life in a philosophy class with when he is told the same in a TV program."

or something to that effect, where the phrases are switched around a bit to enforce cohesion.

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The comma is a bit of a red herring in this case, as the clarity issue is really being caused by incomplete grammar. If you have the option of rewriting the sentence altogether, you might consider this, instead:

Compare Alan's reaction to being told that X is good for life while in a philosophy class to his reaction to being told the same thing by a TV program.

In general, a comma is used to separate list items, as well as to separate clauses in complex sentences. In this case, the second half of the sentence doesn't seem to hold up as a clause, so a comma wouldn't help.

Hope this helps!

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    "while in a philosophy class" or "while being in a philosophy class"? Also, "compare to" or "compare with"? – Sasan Aug 9 '17 at 22:50
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    @Sasan Compare to is correct. – Black and White Aug 10 '17 at 1:09

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