Remember The 'FANBOYS' Rule For Proper Comma Usage

Remember the FANBOYS Rule for Proper Comma Usage

Commas are the most misused punctuation mark. Leaving a comma out or putting it in the wrong place can cause confusion, but you can avoid comma snafus with the FANBOYS acronym.

FANBOYS stands for the coordinating conjunctions For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So. We use these words to connect other words, phrases and clauses together.

When you see one of these connecting words and there are two complete thoughts in the sentence, you should always insert a comma before FANBOYS. If there aren't two subjects and two verbs separated by FANBOYS, you don't need a comma.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a quick tip: Try reading the words after FANBOYS to see if they could be a complete sentence on their own.

Check out the university's commas handout below for many other rules and uses for this misunderstood punctuation mark. It's a great refresher, although it leaves out one of the funniest examples: "let's eat, grandma" versus "let's eat grandma."

Commas [The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]


Comments

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a quick tip: Try reading the words after FANBOYS to see if they could be a complete sentence on their own.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but if they could be considered a complete sentence on their own shouldn't that be cause to use a semicolon?

      Not if the sentence has one of the FANBOY words in it, since they're connecting the two thoughts together. On the other hand, I think

      You wore a lovely hat; you didn't wear anything else.

      would be a correct alternative with a semi-colon.

      When both there are two independent clauses within a sentence they can be separated by a semicolon, a semicolon followed by a conjunctive adverb and then a comma, or a comma followed by a conjunction (the FANBOYS principle from the article).

      The example from zak, "You wore a lovely hat; you didn't wear anything else"
      "You wore a lovely hat; however, you didn't wear anything else"
      "You wore a lovely hat, but you didn't wear anything else.

      In an annoying way, everyone is right.

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