Comma Before Too?

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Most of us were taught to place a comma before a sentence-ending “too”:

We’re going shopping, out to dinner, and then to a movie, too.

But is that comma really necessary? “Too” in this context means “also,” but you’re not likely to see the sentence written like this:

We’re going shopping, out to dinner, and then to a movie, also.

No one seems to know how this particular quirk started, but it’s firmly entrenched in our over-cluttered writers’ brains. Even journalists do it, and modern-day practice is to strip news stories of as many commas as possible without hopelessly obfuscating meaning. Still, that niggling comma before “too” persists.

The editors at the Chicago Manual of Style share their opinion:

Use commas with too only when you want to emphasize an abrupt change of thought:

He didn’t know at first what hit him, but then, too, he hadn’t ever walked in a field strewn with garden rakes. In most other cases, commas with this short adverb are unnecessary.

The bottom line is, there’s no clear rule that either specifies using the comma or forbids it. It’s the writer’s choice. The rules of grammar don’t often allow writers to have choices. It’s kind of nice to be thrown a bone from time to time.

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13 thoughts on “Comma Before Too?”

  1. Choices?!? Ack! I already have to come up with the words to say, now I must choose how to punctuate it. I don’t know that my poor brain can handle it. *sigh*

    Seriously though. I tend to not use the comma, even though my law-abiding brain tells me I should. I’ve always thought it looks odd with the comma.

  2. I try to read my sentence out loud to see where emphasis and breath would fall into the mix.

    Nutmeag, I totally agree about the choices. Gives us so much power, but then makes us feel inadequate if we don’t have a real justification as to why we put the comma where we did!

  3. Interesting, first timer to this blog and dedicated reader of “dailyblogtips” Daniel is definitely the man.

    This is one of my weaknesses, proper punctuation so I figured I better make this blog a daily reader for me as well.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. I find too to be a strange thing. It feels, when coupled with then or a similar phrase, more like a parenthetical expression. And I tend to use plenty of parentheses, but also use commas to set off parenthetical expressions (too).

    OK, phrases and clauses, then. I trace the construct, to “also .. too” in that first paragraph.

    Too, when set off by commas, is not a simple word with a quirky comma rule. That dangling too always hooks into an active part of the sentence – or you don’t need to use the commas. You don’t use a comma for too little or too big, or too loud. It isn’t the word, it is the sentence construction that demands the comma.

    I could as well lament the commas needed for red and green in a sentence like: He chased the bouncy, red, green, and blue ball across the yard. (Separate multiple adjectives for the same noun with commas.)

  5. “We’re going shopping, out to dinner, and then to a movie, also.”

    This sounds pretty natural to me. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

    I might hear “as well” in that position, too.

    On the other hand, I, too, have pondered whether or not that comma is always needed. Much like other conjunctive adverbs, though, it, too, seems to require that comma.

  6. I am learning so much from your site. Thanks for all that you do. I think it’s great too (I just had to use too). Wait, I rhymed, can I enter this in the next poetry contest? 🙂

  7. You mean that wacky comma is actually a rule!? I see lots of people leaving out commas where they shouldn’t but always plopping that frivolous comma in before sentence-final “too.” It just looks wrong to me. Seriously, it makes it look like it’s supposed to be read as “I like potatoes … (long pause) … TOO!!!!”

  8. If it doesn’t matter whether we use the comma before the word “too,” then why did they drill it into our heads in school? It doesn’t make sense to me, but then again most of our grammar is going into the crapper these days. U no wht i mean? <—I hate the way most people these days write out texts and write on social media sites. I'm like "Were you raised in a barn?!?"

    Oh well. I'll get off my soap box and get back to trying to edit my friend's fan fiction story. (Or at least I'll try.)

  9. I’ve noticed some things about this.

    1) The only justification for a comma before “too” at the end of a sentence is the flow of speech (I think we can all agree that tradition is an unsatisfactory excuse).

    2) I am unlikely to use this comma if it is used in a sentence responding to someone else’s expression of emotion towards something/declaration of action.

    3) I am more likely to use this comma if the penultimate word of the sentence ends with a “t”, especially when the “t” is pronounced as a glottal stop because this gives a slight pause to the flow of speech anyway.

  10. People who routinely put commas before too are school marms at heart. They’re the same lousy writers who think it’s perfectly fine to burden readers with their inane “former/latter” constructions.

    (I loved jojo Bizarro’s take on what the stupid comma does to the reader’s brain: “I like potatoes … (long pause) … TOO!!!!” It’s simply ridiculous.

    As for the commenter called Precise Edit, who thinks a sentence like “We’re going shopping, out to dinner, and then to a movie, also” is A-OK… Well, I just pity the poor souls whose work you butcher.)

  11. Glad to hear. I always though that it looks odd and is awkward to read. In my opinion, short four word sentences like “I love you too” don’t need commas. So I don’t use commas with too and similar words unless it is in the middle of the sentence. For a while I tried, because it was technically “correct” and I wanted to do everything by the book . . . couldn’t do it. I just felt too awkward.

    Yes, it is what I was taught in school but I found that creative writing/fiction writing, is a different beast than the kind of writing you are taught in school. It is much less rigid. There are novels written entirely in dialect, novels written in first person complete with purposely incorrect grammar, novels that don’t use dialogue tags.

    I agree with the person who said that people will omit other, necessary commas but plop those in. I often see it done inconsistently. Even in published writing, I’ve seen authors use the ending-too commas for the first half of the book and then drop them.
    At least I’m consistent.

  12. With commas, my guideline is to mirror spoken pronunciation. Rarely would I breathlessly say a sentence ending in “too” without a pause before the “too”. So, in the comma goes. I’ll stick to that, then, and, while I am at it, ignore DavidO’s infantile name-calling and eschew Michelle’s foolish consistency.

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