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My understanding is that I should only use a comma before "but" if it precedes an independent clause.

What if I want a "pause comma" before "but" and it does not precede an independent clause?

Example:

One day, Ted thought he saw another boy dancing, but it was just the reflection of himself.

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    The clause 'it was just the reflection of himself.' is independent. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 12 at 15:25
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    I'd say the comma (pause, in speech) is effectively required in your context, where the but- clause is effectively a whole sentence adverb (contrastive but applies to the entire preceding text, not just the preceding word). You wouldn't have a comma or pause if but only applied to the actual word before it, as in ...he saw another boy dancing but not singing. – FumbleFingers Feb 12 at 15:27

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