3 Cases of Erroneous Punctuation

By Mark Nichol

In each of the following examples, confusion about the role of the comma in conjunction with a conjunction results in incorrect inclusion, omission, or placement of punctuation. Discussion following each example explains the error, and a revision illustrates correct employment of punctuation.

1. The business recently acted on the recommendation, and early on in its transformation process, has already generated valuable time and money-saving efficiencies.

Here, the writer is unclear about how to integrate a parenthetical phrase into a sentence. Without the insertion of “early on in its transformation process,” no internal punctuation is necessary in this sentence, so the first comma should follow, not precede and, which is not part of the parenthesis: “The business recently acted on the recommendation and, early on in its transformation process, has already generated valuable time and money-saving efficiencies.”

2. That debate could place everything on the table and, for that reason, significant tax reform in 2017 may prove challenging to achieve. 

In this example, the introductory phrase of an independent clause is treated as a parenthetical phrase. Note, however, that what precedes and is a complete statement, and what follows the conjunction is another complete statement, so a comma should team up with and (in that order) to separate the two independent clauses, which would otherwise be separated into two sentences: “That debate could place everything on the table, and for that reason, significant tax reform in 2017 may prove challenging to achieve.”

This doesn’t mean that “for that reason” cannot function as a parenthetical phrase, but in that case, a comma preceding and would still be required to separate the independent clauses, and two more commas would have to bracket the phrase. The suggested revision, however, reduces the number of commas. (Also, it is not incorrect to omit the comma following “for that reason” as an introductory phrase, but I recommend punctuating such phrases consistently to eliminate arbitrary inconsistency.)

3. The financial services industry has had a strong focus on data governance for more than a decade and, as a result, most firms have mature data classification and governance programs in place. 

This sentence has the same fault as the one in the previous example, so again, simply shunt the first comma so that it precedes the conjunction: “The financial services industry has had a strong focus on data governance for more than a decade, and as a result, most firms have mature data classification and governance programs in place.”

Another solution, besides dividing one sentence into two, is to replace the comma and and with a semicolon rather than a period: “The financial services industry has had a strong focus on data governance for more than a decade; as a result, most firms have mature data classification and governance programs in place.”


1 Response to “3 Cases of Erroneous Punctuation”

  • Andy Knoedler

    In #1, it’s not the business that has generated the efficiencies. No, the recommendation is responsible for creating those benefits. I would, therefore, change the sentence to this: “The business recently acted on the recommendation, which, early on in its transformation process, has already generated valuable time and money-saving efficiencies.”

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