I was talking about a new logo with a friend and I asked him why there's so much white. He told me that it's not white, he just doesn't know what colour will it be. I replied:

Then use transparent background, which, unlike white, couldn't end up in the final logo.

The question is, are the commas properly placed in the sentence?

  • Whilst everyone focuses on commas, whichever background you choose WILL end up in the final logo :)
    – user9682
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 23:04
  • While they are correct I would use - for the last 2, like this: Then use transparent background, which - unlike white - couldn't end up in the final logo. Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 23:11
  • 1
    @osknows: I think in context the writer is trying to say that you should not be fooled into thinking that a white background won't show up in the final logo just because it blends in with the white "desktop workspace" in your drawing program, and so you must explicitly make the background transparent. You would be unlikely to be misled on this ponit if you had a white workspace and a green image background, because it would clearly stand out. (Whether this is clear in the original document I have no idea.)
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 19:20
  • @Jay: I know what's meant but "couldn't" is not the right word to convey this context. Shouldn't, can't, cannot, musn't are better
    – user9682
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 23:14
  • @osknows: I'm no expert on this kind of software, but I assume "transparent" means nothing at all will be displayed/printed. In which case OP's couldn't makes perfect sense, and can't/cannot are simply equivalents. Shouldn't is useless in the context of computer-controlled methods which either do or don't do things according to specification, and mustn't is frankly bizarre in OP's sentence. Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Yes, those commas are all fine.

The comma after background sets off a nonrestrictive clause ("which couldn't end up in the final logo").

The comma after which sets off a parenthetical clause ("unlike white").

The comma after white marks the end of the parenthetical clause.

  • 6
    The example is, perhaps, slightly confusing because one might be tempted to think that "which" is being set off with commas. What's really happening is that "which ... couldn't end up with the final logo" is being separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma, and then within that clause, "unlike white" is isolated.
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 16:57
  • @Jay, An excellent clarification.
    – Hellion
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 18:22
  • Showing how the sentence could be written with parentheses instead of commas is perhaps helpful: it could be either “Then, use transparent background (which, unlike white, couldn’t end up in the final logo).” or “Then, use transparent background, which (unlike white) couldn’t end up in the final logo.”
    – PLL
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 21:09

Yes. But let me give the correct explanation.

The expression starting with "which" begins a non-restrictive phrase (not a subordinate clause). A non-restrictive phrase or clause (1) renames something or (2) provides an additional description that is not necessary to distinguish the thing from similar things--meaning it is unnecessary for understanding the point of the sentence.

All non-restrictive phrases and clauses are set off from the main sentence by commas. Thus, in this case, you need the comma before "which."

Another example of a non-restrictive phrase is "I just heard from my father, who is in Borneo." The non-restrictive clause is "who is in Borneo," and it is correctly set off from the main sentence with a comma.

"Unlike white" is, indeed, a parenthetical expression and is correctly set off with commas.

For more on commas with "which" and non-restrictive phrases and clauses, you might check out "A Cauldron of Commas" (comma use two): http://zencomma.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/a-cauldron-of-commas/ and "That vs. Which": http://300daysofbetterwriting.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/that-vs-which/ .

  • you are correct; it's nonrestrictive. I have updated my answer accordingly.
    – Hellion
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 21:39

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