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Below are two variations of a sentence. Sentence 1 is clearly a compound sentence with two independent clauses, and the accepted rule is to put a comma before the conjunction (as here). Sentence two appears to be a simple sentence with a compound predicate. Some editors advise putting a comma before the "and" that connects the second predicate. Is that correct? What is the reasoning behind the inclusion of a comma there?

  1. On warm summer days, I swim in the cool ocean, and I take long walks on the shadowy forest trails.

  2. On warm summer days, I swim in the cool ocean and take long walks on the shadowy forest trails.

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    Could you link to an editor who advises the second comma in sentence 2? One justification might be to emphasize the second predicate as a kind of afterthought, but otherwise I'd always go with your first example. – S Conroy May 17 at 13:12
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    @SConroy Someone else asked a similar question to mine, although my sample sentence doesn't quite fit. I thought Cerebus had an interesting answer that sheds light on my experience. I'll try to dig up an editor or two. english.stackexchange.com/questions/464090/… – Zan700 May 17 at 16:19
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    Neither of the sentences 'On warm summer days, I swim in the cool ocean and take long walks on the shadowy forest trails.' and 'On warm summer days, I swim in the cool ocean, and take long walks on the shadowy forest trails.' is unacceptable, no matter what some writing gurus say. If you want to separate the two statements and emphasise the second you are free to show this by including the comma, as S Conroy says above. Would you like to signal a pause? Otherwise, it's probably better to adopt the modern minimalist approach. // The inclusion/omission of the 'I' complicates the issue. – Edwin Ashworth May 17 at 16:43
  • @EdwinAshworth The approach you suggest is the one I will take: not using the comma in the second sentence but knowing it would be defensible. Elsewhere, I tried to explore the complications of the inclusion/omission of "I," but found the territory hostile. My shop was summarily closed. – Zan700 May 17 at 17:03
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    It's just that keeping the number of variables down to one (here, comma or not in otherwise identical sentences) makes analysis simpler. (c) (I don't know whether to call it 1' or 2') 'On warm summer days, I swim in the cool ocean and I take long walks on the shadowy forest trails.' is something I could never see myself writing as I'd never omit the pause after 'ocean' when saying it. Unless I emphasised the 'and'. – Edwin Ashworth May 18 at 10:41
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A compound predicate with [exactly] two verbs should not be separated by a comma (OWL [13], Grammarly).

The one exception would be where there is a chance of mistaking the meaning ("I smiled at the man who walked in and waved." Did I wave, or did the man?).

I could not find any examples of editors or style guides recommending the inclusion of a comma, but doing so would be grammatically incorrect.

  • The terms '[un]grammatical' are narrowly defined on ELU, so that punctuation errors or otherwise, preferred styles, and interpretations of [non-]inclusion are a totally different issue. – Edwin Ashworth May 17 at 16:35

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