I think one of the uses of the comma is to separate independent clauses, but in this sentence, a comma is put in between the preposition phrase "from..to".

The punishment ranges from reducing an assignment grade, to the invalidation of credits and degrees and expulsion from university.


Punctuation is a matter of personal preference in English, but the basic idea is it reflects the position and extent of pauses if the sentence were spoken. In the example you quote the comma (between “grade” and “to”) is at a position where no pause is ever made. That, and that alone, is why it is incorrect.

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  • I can see myself adding a pause there, David. "The punishment ranges from reducing an assignment grade, to the invalidation of credits and degrees and expulsion from university." There's a garden-path available otherwise: "The punishment ranges from reducing an assignment grade to the next-lower grade if available ...". – Edwin Ashworth Jun 22 '19 at 10:20
  • @EdwinAshworth — Really? I wouldn’t, but in that case, do add a comma. As I said, punctuation is a personal thing. It has nothing on do with rules about clauses. – David Jun 22 '19 at 10:50
  • It certainly is. Though in reading I'd also (often!) leave a small pause after ranges, I'd never put a comma there in the transcription. Weird. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 22 '19 at 14:11
  • @EdwinAshworth — And of course the other subjective aspect is how much of a pause deserves a punctuation mark and which. And will the punctuation mark help or hinder the correct reading? In this case I agree there is a slight pause, but I feel a comma would cause the reader to pause too long and separate the linked "from" from the "to", causing an inappropriate reading. My point is that it is far, far better to understand why you are using punctuation, and that in English it is for a purpose, not (as in German) formulaic. I despair of those who would learn rules rather than think. – David Jun 22 '19 at 15:12
  • If only they'd all use my rules:) – Edwin Ashworth Jun 22 '19 at 16:53

Your comma doesn't divide the sentence into two independent clauses, so the comma isn't needed. It breaks the flow of the sentence.

We would't add a comma in

I'm on my way from Berlin to Madrid

and just the length of your sentence per se isn't a reason for using a comma. I don't mean that the length never matters; at least, in this case it doesn't, in my opinion, which is not a very complicated one.

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  • Arguably, it could be. Though almost certainly the better way to go would be to rewrite getting rid of over-long phrases etc. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 21 '19 at 18:24
  • Yes, Edwin, I totally agree with you. – Artyom Lugovoy Jun 21 '19 at 18:42
  • It's a good example you give, Artyom, and it's arguable the other way, that the length of phrases etc doesn't constitute an excuse for an unusual comma usage (I think it's always best to regard punctuation rules as near-rules, and break them to achieve clarity when all else fails). But 'good answers' on ELU always (?) contain supporting references. (Though I'm guessing that this question is a duplicate ... but I can't turn up the previous incarnation.) – Edwin Ashworth Jun 21 '19 at 18:52
  • Added another sentence. 'It's a good example you give...' Happy to hear it! :) – Artyom Lugovoy Jun 21 '19 at 19:04

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