I’ve edited grammar books, and keeping the errors in the exercises was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Would you keep the comma in that sentence? Editing Canadian English 3 says you should:
“The comma is used between independent clauses introduced by conjunctions—and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet—except in very short sentences. (An independent clause contains a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought.)” [ECE3 section 7.3.2.a*].
Commas are useful, but sometimes they are optional.
The Canadian Press Stylebook agrees about comma use “if the subject changes” but allows its omission “when the clauses are short or the subject of both is the same.” [CP p. 381]
CP also advises using a comma to set off an introductory clause or long phrase; and for emphasis if the introductory clause is short or introducing a quote that is a full sentence.
“Note that for and so as conjunctions need the comma in front of them to prevent their being read as prepositions,” ECE3 cautions. [7.3.2.b]
They celebrated grammar day, for they loved language.
They grammared for the love of language.
Heather Ebbs revised the punctuation section for the latest release of Editing Canadian English. Since the guide is meant as a supplement highlighting Canadian variations, I asked why these common bits of grammar were included. “Because it is one of the areas that editors often have questions about,” Ebbs said. “And although ECE3 isn’t meant to be prescriptive or all-encompassing, it is intended to be a go-to source for Canadian editors.”
“One of the things I did when I revised the chapter was to look at everything in the EAC [email discussion] list archives (it was then still available) that any member had ever posted about any piece of punctuation,” Ebbs explained. “I then considered whether it was an issue that merited inclusion in this chapter in some way. Mostly, the items were things that people just hadn't bothered looking up (turning to the list for a quick answer), but sometimes it was something that wasn't well explained in other style guides or that had alternatives.”
*ECE3 is only available online until June, so section number references are all you get.
Heather Ebbs is an editor, indexer and writer operating under the name Editor's Ink.