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What is a Coordinating Conjunction?
It is important to understand the function of independent clauses, commas, and coordinating conjunctions in order to use this comma rule correctly. A conjunction is a word that connects two other words or groups of words together. A coordinating conjunction connects two words or groups of words that are of equal importance. There are only seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. The easiest way to remember these conjunctions is by remembering the acronym “FANBOYS."
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What is an Independent Clause?
The technical definition of an independent clause is a group of words, containing a subject and verb, that express a complete thought. The easiest way to identify an independent clause? Try reading it aloud, and see if it can stand by itself as a sentence. For example, these would NOT be independent clauses:
- before Matt and Amy got to school that day
- because they found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk
- although the soldiers were weary from the long day of fighting
None of those clauses could stand by itself as a sentence. Here are some independent clauses – or clauses that can stand by themselves as a sentence:
- Matt and Amy got to school that day
- they found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk
- the soldiers were weary from the long day of fighting
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When Should I Use a Comma?
When two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, always put a comma before the conjunction. The comma shows that the two clauses are different ideas connected by the conjunction, rather than two parts of the same clause. For example:
- Matt and Amy got to school that day, so they didn’t hear about what happened until they came home.
- They found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk, but they decided to try to find its owner before they spent it.
- The soldiers were weary from the long day of fighting, yet they still found the strength to write letters home to their loved ones.
In short, always use a comma before a conjunction that connects two independent clauses. Commas show that the two clauses can stand independently of each other.
Using Commas Between Independent Clauses
Confused by commas? These rules for comma usage will teach you how and when to use commas. Includes information about items in a series, introductory phrases, and comma splices.