Comma after a Long Subject

by Craig Shrives
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Can I Put a Comma between Subject and Verb?

It is acceptable to put a comma after a long subject if it aids reading. Here is an example:
  • Leaving a list of Internet passwords, increasing your life insurance, and writing a will, will give you peace of mind while you are on operations. correct tick
  • (The subject is shaded. The author of this sentence judged the comma to be helpful.)
Be aware that putting a comma between a subject and its verb is not a popular practice with many grammarians, but you can do it if you think it helps.
comma after subject, between subject and predicate
Using a comma after a subject is most common with a long, complicated compound subject (i.e., a subject that has more than one element).

What Is a Compound Subject?

When the subject is made up of a list of things, it is known as a compound subject. Here is an easy example of a compound subject:
  • Simon and Tina are happy.
  • (In this example, "Simon and Tina" is a compound subject with two elements.)
Here is a more complicated example:
  • Simon from Portsmouth with the permed hair and Tina with the Jack Russell from the fish market are happy.
  • (The shaded text is a compound subject with two elements. In this example, the elements are more complicated. When a subject is this complicated, some writers like to mark its end with a comma.)

Using a Comma to Group a Complicated Compound Subject

Sometimes, a compound subject has so many complicated elements, writers like to mark the end of the subject with a comma to aid their readers. For example:
  • A clean driving licence, the ability to operate under pressure, and 5 years' experience in marketing, are the only criteria stipulated by the selection panel. correct tick
  • (The shaded text is the compound subject of this sentence. The verb is "are.")
  • Murder is the only crime that does not increase during a full moon. Theft, disorderly conduct, larceny, armed robbery, assault and battery, and rape, increase dramatically during a full moon. correct tick
  • (The shaded text is the compound subject of this sentence. The verb is "increase.")

Using a Comma after a Complicated Single Subject

Occasionally, it is helpful to use a comma after a complicated single subject (i.e., a subject made up of one element). Here is an easy example of a single subject:
  • The boy is happy.
  • (In this example, "the boy" is a single subject, i.e., it's just one element.)
Here is a more complicated example:
  • The boy who was caught on Monday by the groundsman's daughter as he was setting up a crayfish trap, pleaded not guilty. correct tick
  • (The shaded text is a complicated single subject. The comma makes it clear where the subject ends.)
Using a comma to mark the end of any complicated subject is not a popular practice, but if you think it helps your reader, you can do it (and then fight like a dog to defend your comma).

Using a Comma after a Short Subject

Sometimes, a comma is warranted after a short subject in a seemingly simple sentence. Look at this example:
  • Those who know, know. correct tick

Have Your Say

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