2

consider the following example sentence:

This section summarizes Tom and Jerry's 1975 experimental designs and results and reviews their comparisons of the behavior they observed with the predictions of Yosemite Sam.

Should there be a comma before the bolded and?

I ask because If "designs and results" was just "designs" I would not put a comma (the sentence is clear without it, and I believe the part of the sentence after the bolded and is not an independent clause?).

However, in sentences such as this I often want to put a comma to distinguish the ands. Specifically, I see the first and as as having to do with "summarizes" and the second and as having to do with "this section". I feel like without a comma this may not be clear?


Aside:

I know there are many questions on this topic, but I was unsure of what keywords to use to find a topic search similar to this example.

If someone has a better title suggestion please let me know.

4

The original sentence is somewhat of a garden path sentence because "designs", "results" and "reviews" are each both a verb and a plural noun. As a result, the reader might expect "results" to be a verb or "reviews" to be another noun, requiring rereading to understand the sentence clearly.

A comma resolves the issue but may not be preferred because a comma isn't generally used with a conjunction unless both clauses are independent. The house style of some academic editing services, for example, would prefer the sentence be rewritten, e.g.,

In this section, we summarize Tom and Jerry's 1975 experimental designs and results and review their comparisons of the behavior they observed with the predictions of Yosemite Sam.

or, to be even more clear,

In this section, we summarize Tom and Jerry's 1975 experimental designs and results, and we review their comparisons of the behavior they observed with the predictions of Yosemite Sam.

or, keeping "this section" as the subject,

This section summarizes Tom and Jerry's 1975 experimental designs and results and their comparisons of the behavior they observed with the predictions of Yosemite Sam.

Two uses of "and" in close vicinity, however, as in "designs and results and review" in the first revised sentence or "experimental designs and results and their comparisons" in the third, is not really problematic as long as the degree of ambiguity is low. If it still annoys you, however, you might prefer the second revision.

  • Thank you. I indeed prefer the second version. For some reason, when I read 'summarizes... designs and results and" I'm expecting whatever follows that second and to also be something "summarized". With the additional comma I don't (or, if I do, I don't register it in normal reading). – user106860 Oct 7 '17 at 7:15

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