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I think we all agree that most introductory clauses are set off by commas. E.g.:

  • In 1982, John Smith went to battle in Spain.
  • Moreover, the monkeys all ate bread.

I think we also agree that conditional sentences require commas between the dependent clause and the main clause:

  • If James goes to the store, then I want him to bring me some cheese.
  • To avoid hitting the man, Debra aimed the other way.

But what happens when we combine an introductory clause with a conditional sentence? My instinct would be to include all the commas like this:

  • Accordingly, if James goes to the store, then I want him to bring me some cheese.

But my editor looked at the sentence above and thought it looked weird. Indeed, now that "if James goes to the store" is separated by a comma on both sides it looks like its a parenthetical (which it isn't). I fixed the sentence by just changing the "Accordingly" to "So," which doesn't require a commma even though its an introductory clause (e.g.: "So if James goes to the store, then I want him to bring me some cheese."), but I'd like to know if my original formulation is correct or not.

Any thoughts?

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    Your original looks good to me. – S Conroy Aug 13 '18 at 16:10
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There is nothing wrong with your use of commas. It follows normal guidelines, and should not have been questioned by your editor on those terms alone. (Many perfectly grammatical constructions use a number of commas.)

However, if there is an insistence on not using commas in such a way that they could be misinterpreted as parenthetical (there is some merit in reducing unnecessary parsing), then your sentence can rephrased by simply reversing the position of the conditional:

Accordingly, I want James to bring me some cheese if he goes to the store.

However, this is a matter of style rather than grammar.

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