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Spoon had a scheduled appearance the next day on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and another after that at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

I came upon this sentence in The New Yorker, and based on the way a friend had explained the punctuation of compound predicates, I thought the magazine had violated its house style by placing a comma before a conjunction that is followed by a compound predicate. When I looked up compound predicate, I realized that there is no compound predicate in the sentence because there aren't any verbs in the second part of the sentence to share a subject with the verb in the sentence's main clause.

My question: is there guidance or a relevant rule (in, for instance, the Chicago Manual of Style or another style guide—and in asking this, I am asking a question which can be answered factually with reference to sources, rather than a question based on opinion) concerning the comma before "and" in the New Yorker example sentence? Do any style guides consider the comma obligatory there? Is it always considered optional?

I know the convention about putting a comma before a conjunction that separates two independent clauses and know the convention about not placing a comma before a conjunction when the conjunction separates a verb from its subject in a compound predicate, but I don't know what rules, if any, apply to the comma in the example sentence. I'd be thankful for any information.

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    Right on your analysis, but the comma is yours for the taking whenever you feel it helps clarity. You'd leave it out for a shorter pair: The next day on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and the Hammerstein Ballroom. May 11, 2022 at 11:28
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    The "conventions" you mention are bogus; commas are aural. If you hear them, you put them in. They are not occasioned by preceding or following certain (types of) words. May 11, 2022 at 13:48
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    @JohnLawler Have you -seen- the style guides of these publications? They may well be conventions, and also bogus, but they are also enforced by those publications, and trillions (I did the calculation) of person-years of secondary school education have been spent to get people to learn some close approximation of them.
    – Mitch
    May 19, 2022 at 20:09
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    @Mitch And how well has that worked out? May 19, 2022 at 21:35
  • Not well if you violate their style.
    – Zan700
    May 20, 2022 at 1:57

1 Answer 1

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Yes, there is a rule. When a conjunction coordinates two conjuncts, then the author may make the second nonrestrictive by surrounding it (along with the preceding conjunction) with paired punctuation (dashes, parentheses, or commas). I've recently given examples on this site ("Why, and how" VS "Why and how"):

Why, and how, does the pH level affect the resulting popping boba?
Why (and how) does the pH level affect the resulting popping boba?
Why--and how--does the pH level affect the resulting popping boba?

. . . and on ELL (https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/314698/comma-before-and-also/314706):

People say that the Earth has four (or sometimes five) oceans.
Oregon--but not Idaho--is on the Pacific Ocean.
My friend Alice, and her dog Bucky, will arrive tomorrow.

If you're from the "minimalist" school of punctuation, then you should only include this punctuation when the second element is really nonrestrictive (or parenthetical). (See what I did there?) In fact, many guides consider inclusion of such punctuation in other situations to be an error. (E.g., see the first example at https://owl.excelsior.edu/grammar-essentials/common-errors/common-errors-unnecessary-comma/ .) Because there doesn't seem to be any need in your sentence for the second conjunct to be nonrestrictive, I would omit the comma:

Spoon had a scheduled appearance the next day on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and another after that at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

However, keep in mind that not everyone subscribes to the "minimalist" school, and people have a wide variety of opinions about commas. (See John Lawler's comment above, for example.)

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    It's also worth noting that New Yorker is against the minimalist school. See, e.g., "In Defense of Nutty Commas". May 11, 2022 at 15:30
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    If you are concerned with rules of punctuation I’d do something about your representation of em dashes. The necessity for double hyphens on the web went out last century.
    – David
    May 11, 2022 at 18:42
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    @David Yes, actual dashes would work better here. Sometimes I use double hyphens for convenience (it's easier than inserting the em-dash character). I also often use monospaced fonts, where double hyphens generally work better than actual dashes. May 11, 2022 at 20:40
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    @Zan700 — I am not able to test Goodreads, but I very much doubt what you say because your comment shows you do not understand the difference between character representation and text styling. The former (but not the latter) involves various international standards for representing characters as binary bytes and interpretation depends on web browser capabilities, not the website. Nor do these standards involve HTML. You'd be pushed today to find a web browser that will not take this sort of thing: ボビン булавка תפירה ç č . You just need to learn how to type them. Easy on a Mac or iPhone.
    – David
    May 20, 2022 at 8:02
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    @Zan700 — I just published a review of a book called Anthracite by Cédric Gras under the name of Attila Hun. I used an em-dash from my Mac keyboard (option + shift + hyphen ) and copied and pasted Švejk from a Wikipedia page. I only use Windows under emulation, but apparently there are virtual keyboards you can use — theverge.com/22351023/windows-pc-special-characters-how-to
    – David
    May 20, 2022 at 21:23

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