Comma With FANBOYS – Rules, Examples & Practice Sheet

10.02.24 Commas Time to read: 8min

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Commas hold a significant power in the realm of punctuation, especially in the context of academic writing, where they offer clarity and facilitate communication. They are instrumental in accurately conveying intended meanings, delineating ideas, and introducing appropriate pauses. This article serves as a guide for placing commas with FANBOYS to enhance precision and readability in your writing.

When to place a comma with FANBOYS

FANBOYS is an acronym for all the coordinating conjunctions “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.” Essentially, they are used to connect two words, phrases, or clauses. The general rule for placing a comma before FANBOYS is when they link two independent clauses. Independent clauses can stand alone, as the sentence structure contains a subject and a verb conveying a complete meaning.

The FANBOYS conjunctions “and” and “or” are often used to join the last item in a serial list. If the list contains more than two items, these conjunctions are preceded by the so-called Oxford comma or serial comma.

If the second independent clause starts with an introductory element, a comma may be placed after the coordinating conjunction to ensure clarity. A comma after FANBOYS is also due when a parenthetical or an appositive follows them.

Comma

Linking independent clauses

Serial list

Introductory element

Parenthetical or appositive

No comma

Linking dependent clause

Simple list

 

 

Depending on the Style Guide or the complexity and length of the sentence, there may be differences or exceptions to the general rule for placing commas with FANBOYS. Ensuring consistency and clarity are instrumental for maintaining credibility and academic integrity.

Note: Do not place commas to connect two independent clauses when there is no conjunction, as this creates a comma splice, which refers to a grammatical error.

Comma before FANBOYS

There are two overall rules for when a comma before FANBOYS is due. Firstly, when they link two independent clauses, and secondly, when “and” and “or” link the last item of a serial list with more than two items.

Linking independent clauses

When FANBOYS are placed between two independent clauses to connect them, they are typically preceded by a comma to make a clear separation between the clauses. The independent clauses must contain a subject and a verb and convey a complete meaning. The following examples illustrate example sentences for each of the FANBOYS conjunction.

Examples

  • She brought gloves, for the forecast predicted minus degrees.
  • I studied all week, and I felt unprepared for the exam.
  • He couldn’t find his bag, nor could he remember where he last saw it.
  • They wanted to go for dinner, but they were unable to find a babysitter.
  • We can go to the cinema, or we can watch a movie at home.
  • She revised every day, yet she was still nervous on the day of the test.
  • It was already late, so we decided to call it the night.

Serial list

Keep in mind that his rule only applies to “and” and “or,” as the other coordinating conjunctions usually don’t connect items of a serial list. When a serial list with more than two items ends with “and” or “or,” they are preceded by an Oxford comma. Take a look at the examples below.

And

Examples

  • He packed his suitcase with a laptop, books, and a water bottle.
  • On the trip, we want to visit parks, sights, and museums.
  • I had toast, eggs, and orange juice, for breakfast.

Or

Examples

  • You need to bring a tablet, notebook, or pen to write notes.
  • We can choose between margarine, coconut oil, or butter for the recipe.
  • For the trip, we can travel to London, Paris, or Rome.

Comma after FANBOYS

The rule of placing a comma after FANBOYS applies when the second independent clause begins with an introductory element, a parenthetical, or an appositive.

Introductory element

If an introductory element modifies the second main clause that is connected by a FANBOYS conjunction, a comma is placed directly after the conjunction to make a clear separation between the conjunction and the introductory element. The following gives an example for each FANBOYS conjunction.

Examples

  • I always enjoyed snow, for, although it’s cold, it brings a sense of calm.
  • He offered to swap shifts with her, and, after considering all options, she accepted.
  • She didn’t want to leave, nor, given the circumstances, did she want to stay.
  • We could go to the park, but, seeing the cloudy sky, we chose to stay in.
  • You can drive by car, or, if you want to be faster, you can take a flight.
  • The evidence was clear, yet, due to new findings, the jury was hesitant.
  • The deadline was coming closer, so, to meet it, we worked overtime.

Parenthetical or appositive

When a parenthetical or appositive follows a FANBOYS conjunction and introduces the second independent clause, a comma is placed after the conjunction. Look at the examples for each conjunction below.

Examples

  • She skipped the meeting, for, as everyone knew, it was not mandatory.
  • He helped with the project, and, to everyone’s surprise, finished it in half the time.
  • They didn’t want to eat out, nor, given their exhaustion, did they feel like cooking.
  • We tried to apologize, but, despite our efforts, he wouldn’t listen to us.
  • You can take the night train, or, to save time, you can take the early flight.
  • He worked there for years, yet, oddly enough, he’s never met the CEO.
  • We ran out of ice cubes, so, naturally, I went to the store to buy more.

No comma with FANBOYS

When a coordinating conjunction links dependent clauses, the comma must be omitted around the conjunction. Furthermore, when a simple list, typically consisting of two items, is connected by “and” or “or,” there is no comma needed.

Linking dependent clauses

When elements that are not independent, like dependent clauses, are connected by FANBOYS conjunctions, no comma is necessary.

Examples

  • He stayed at home for the weather forecast.
  • She bought milk and bread from the store.
  • They never drank nor smoked.
  • The kid is small but strong.
  • Do you prefer tea or coffee?
  • He is old yet very active.
  • It rained so the ground got wet.

Simple list

A simple list usually consists of only two items. If the items are connected by “and” or “or,” there is no comma placed before the conjunction.

And

Examples

  • She enjoys reading and jogging in her free time.
  • The room was decorated with balloons and lights for the party.
  • He bought flour and sugar for the cake today.

Or

Examples

  • I suggest you travel by train or plane.
  • For dessert, we have ice cream or fruit.
  • Do you prefer tea or coffee?

Test yourself!

Practice sheet

Based on the knowledge you gathered from this article, place the comma with FANBOYS in the practice sentences below. You can find the solutions in the second tab to check whether you got it right!

  1. They need to buy paper, pens and erasers for school.
  2. They didn’t win the game but despite the loss, they felt proud.
  3. She bought apples and oranges.
  4. I wanted to call you and after I got home, I realized I had lost my phone.
  5. He wanted to leave early but his friend hadn’t arrived yet.
  6. For our picnic, I’ll bring sandwiches, cheese and if there’s time, make some lemonade.
  7. He runs faster than anyone else but still doesn’t think he’s fast enough.
  8. She came, she saw and she conquered
  9. The options are to wait for help or if you think it’s safe, start walking towards town.
  10. You can eat your cake with a spoon or fork if you prefer.
  1. They need to buy paper, pens, and erasers for school. (Comma)
  2. They didn’t win the game, but, despite the loss, they felt proud. (Comma)
  3. She bought apples and oranges. (No comma)
  4. I wanted to call you, and, after I got home, I realized I had lost my phone. (Comma)
  5. He wanted to leave early, but his friend hadn’t arrived yet. (Comma)
  6. For our picnic, I’ll bring sandwiches, cheese, and, if there’s time, make some lemonade. (Comma)
  7. He runs faster than anyone else but still doesn’t think he’s fast enough. (No comma)
  8. She came, she saw and she conquered. (No comma)
  9. The options are to wait for help, or, if you think it’s safe, start walking towards town. (Comma)
  10. You can eat your cake with a spoon or fork if you prefer. (No comma)
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FAQs

The general rule is that when two independent clauses are joined by a FANBOYS conjunction, a pre-comma must be placed. When dependent clauses or phrases are connected by FANBOYS, then no comma should be placed. Depending on the sentence structure, a comma after the FANBOYS conjunction may be due, e.g., when an introductory element, parenthetical, or appositive follows it and introduces the second sentence.

Coordinating conjunctions are connectors of all sorts of clauses, phrases, or words. When they connect two independent clauses, a comma is necessary to make a clear separation between the clauses. Here is an example of it:

  • We are preparing the dessert for the party tonight, so we won’t be that stressed tomorrow.

The Oxford comma, also called the serial comma, is the comma that is placed before the conjunction in a serial list of three or more items. In relation to FANBOYS conjunctions, “and” and “or,” are the conjunctions that are used in serial lists, so the Oxford comma will be placed before them.

Examples:

  • For the workshop, we need clay, an oven, and a lot of water.
  • You can decide whether we should take the car, train, or plane.

FANBOYS is an acronym for the main coordinating conjunctions:

For

And

Nor

But

Or

Yet

So

There are a few special cases, where a comma after a coordinating conjunction is due. These are elaborated on in this article. Commas after coordinating conjunctions are placed, when an introductory element, parenthetical, or appositive follows it and introduces another clause. Here are a few examples:

  • We wanted to go to the park, but, given the forecast, we chose to stay home.
  • She played tennis for years, yet, oddly enough, she has low endurance.
  • They didn’t want to eat out, nor, given the prices, order in.