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While discussing my thesis title with my thesis advisor the following came up

Cement technology: Characterization**,** and applications in bridges and dams

I am concerned about a comma and I am not able to find the relevant rules to decide if the comma is correct or not. The reasoning seems to be that it could stand by itself 'Cement technology: Characterization' and the second part is a separate thing that also contains an 'and' and therefore has to be separated by a comma.

I am not a native speaker and for some reason the comma looks strange to me, can you dispel my doubts?

  • The title has several stylistic problems in the first place. But without quite knowing how it's meant to be parsed, I can say that a comma is never used in the simple conjunction of two items. It's always items X and Y, never items X, and Y. As far as I can tell, what the title is trying to express is: Cement technology in bridges and dams: Its types and applications. (I don't know what you mean by characterization.) – Jason Bassford Aug 24 '18 at 15:44
  • The characterization refers to cement technology in general (not only bridges and dams) whereas the applications are only about bridges and dams. Your never item X, and Y comment already helped because that is what I was told was necessary in this case because of the two 'and', thank you! – MeatyOwlLegs Aug 24 '18 at 17:36
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My first instinct reading that phrase with a comma would be to think it was a typo: you already have an 'and', so the comma feels like too much of a good thing.
But if I understand the question correctly, your problem is that without the comma it restricts 'characterisation' to bridges and dams, while you actually want the characterisation to refer to cement technology in general.

Perhaps you could reformulate. I'd suggest something on the lines of

Cement technology and its application(s) in bridges and dams/A discussion of cement technology and its application(s) in bridges and dams.

  • The characterisation is meant for cement technology in general whereas the applications are specifically bridges and dams. – MeatyOwlLegs Aug 24 '18 at 17:38
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The use of "and" with a comma is redundant, even if they are intended to be completely separate. I'm ignoring other stylistic concerns.

However

Cement technology: Characterization, application in bridges and dams

True, this looks like "characterization in bridges and dams," but I don't think you can avoid that without reforming your title. This is a common construction in academic writing.

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