I can't figure out when I should/shouldn't put a comma before "then"

Pro Writing Aid says that "then" has started to replace "and then."

I went to bed, [and] then I started dreaming.

This I understand if "then" is a replacement/shortened version of "and then," but I don't understand how to use it when its in a subordinate clause

He was quiet for a moment, then said, “I’m sorry about this. I really am.”

Why is there a comma before "then" in this instance? "then said" cannot stand alone, so, grammatically, there shouldn't be a comma there and it should read as

He was quiet for a moment then said, “I’m sorry about this. I really am.”

  • Start by seeing that "He was quiet for a moment then" leads the reader to confusion: I came, I saw I took a break cause hey yeah a guy's gotta eat then I conquered. The comma holds your first part together before you switch activities. Two things are happening in your sentence, quiet and saying sorry. Separating them organizes your words, then organizes things for your reader. If you don't love them, they can't love you back. – Yosef Baskin Jun 10 at 22:27

The Chicago Manual of Style website has a rule: when describing multiple actions of an individual, you don't need a comma with "and then", but if you have "then" without "and", it needs a comma before. They give these examples of correct usage:

  1. "She glanced around the room and then exited for the last time."
  2. "He got a DUI, then resisted arrest."

This is a matter of style to some extent, but this seems a good rule.

A previous Stack Exchange question dealt with the distinct question of "if x, then y" which again has a comma.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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