The Comma Part 3: Coordinate Conjunctions Explained
Dr. Gillian Bartlett, Advisor & Content Expert
Oct 9, 2019 10:30:00 AM
In my last blog, I wrote about the comma splice and the three possible corrections writers can apply. But it’s worth taking the time to examine those solutions in more detail.
Let’s begin with the strategy of adding a coordinate conjunction.
First off, you need to know just what a “coordinate conjunction” is. You’ll be relieved to learn that there are only seven of them in English, and the best way to remember them is to memorize the acronym “FANBOYS.” This is an abbreviation in which each letter stands for an individual word: in this case “FANBOYS” stands for FOR, AND, NOR, BUT, OR, YET, and SO.
Not all coordinate conjunctions work in every situation: AND is the most flexible, while NOR is probably the least used. But they all have the same capacity in common – grammarians consider them strong enough to work in conjunction (pun intended!) with a comma in order to join two sentences together.
Consider the following two sentences:
Oil prices have remained stable.
Producers have increased their output.
To join these two sentences together, to emphasize how they relate to each other, you could logically use a comma plus up to six of the FANBOYS depending on the meaning you wanted to convey:
- What is happening in business news?
Oil prices have been stable, and producers have increased their output.
- Do you foresee any changes in the markets?
Oil prices have remained stable, but producers have increased their output.
- Have you noticed anything unusual in the markets?
Producers have increased their output, yet oil prices have remained stable.
- How has OPEC reacted to the current market situation?
Oil prices have remained stable, so producers have increased their output.
- Why is there more oil on the market?
Producers have increased their output, for oil prices have remained stable.
- What can explain the current cost of oil in comparison to three months ago?
Oil prices have remained stable, or producers have increased their output.
As you can see, a comma plus an appropriate FANBOY is a great strategy for joining two sentences together. A comma alone just won’t do the trick.
Of course FANBOYS don’t always join two sentences. They are called co-ordinate conjunctions because they are used to join two or more items of the same grammatical value. They co-ordinate or put together two items of equal status.
This is especially true for the co-ordinate conjunction AND.
Consider the following:
Jordan likes tennis and soccer.
Jordan likes playing tennis and watching soccer.
In the first case, “and” is joining two nouns (“tennis” and “soccer”), and in the second case, it is joining two phrases (“playing tennis” and “watching soccer”). So you can see there’s no need for a comma before the “and.” It is only when a coordinate conjunction joins two sentences that writers are required to introduce it with a comma.
That said, check my blog on the Oxford Comma. The truth is that grammar rules are never that simple!