Interested to know if there is any rule in usage for this (other than to avoid it or substitute the second word 'on' to an alternative (e.g. 'during') perhaps) and what it would be termed as:

The word 'on' occurs twice in this example sentence:

And you’re also vital to human rights because you see what goes on, on a day-to-day basis - PUNCTUATION?
And you’re also vital to human rights because you see what goes on on a day-to-day basis - NO PUNCTUATION?

Punctuated or not - which is correct? (It's not possible for me to amend it, as it is part of a verbatim transcript.)

  • 2
    The rule is 'there ain't no rule'. Go on is a phrasal verb. Mar 23, 2020 at 10:53
  • 1
    on a day-to-day basis can be replaced with daily with no loss of meaning. Mar 23, 2020 at 10:55
  • As it is supposed to be verbatim, use a comma if the speaker paused, but do not use a comma if they didn't.
    – Greybeard
    Mar 23, 2020 at 12:20
  • @Greybeard ... and a capital letter only if they used one? Punctuation isn't just used to try to capture speech. CMOS recommends "Let us march in, in twos", for instance, though I'd rarely leave a pause here. I'd signal a pause here with an ellipsis. Mar 23, 2020 at 12:26

2 Answers 2


You should separate identical or similar words with a comma.

This answer cites Chicago Manual of Style for repeated adjectives, such as

  • "You're a bad, bad dog!"

CMoS (13th Ed., 1982) says this rule applies to "Separating Identical or Similar Words" (section 5.56):

For ease of reading, it is sometimes desirable to separate two identical or closely similar words with a comma, even though the sense or grammatical construction does not require such separation:

  • Let us march in, in twos.

  • Whatever is, is good.


  • He gave his life that that cause might prevail.
  • Yes. This is what I'd do 'intuitively' (I don't always agree with CMOS recommendations). The comma certainly aids understanding in the second and third examples you cite, adds proper (probably increasing) emphasis in the first, but would actually disimprove in the fourth. Mar 23, 2020 at 12:18
  • The name for repetition for emphasis ("bad, bad dog!") is epizeuxis and may be found at english.stackexchange.com/a/476594/3306
    – rajah9
    Mar 23, 2020 at 12:18
  • Thanks everybody - very interesting and helpful.
    – Frecklepaw
    Mar 23, 2020 at 16:37

Use a punctuation only if you would use it for the same construction with different words. Like "... goes on under a day-to-day basis". Punctuation rules do not change just because a word is repeated.

  • Thanks everybody - this is helpful.
    – Frecklepaw
    Mar 23, 2020 at 11:30
  • Your justification for this? I've seen a 'rule' stating that commas may be used to add clarification / aid of parsing (on on can throw one momentarily) even where they would not normally be used. Without authoritative supporting references, answers can come across as (and may even be) mere opinion / preference. Mar 23, 2020 at 11:41
  • Can you let me know where you've seen this, if possible?
    – Frecklepaw
    Mar 23, 2020 at 12:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.