Comma Before Or: Punctuation marks are used to improvise the sentences. Punctuation marks, especially commas, are used to facilitate reading and writing appropriately.
Another function of commas is categorising words in a heavily-constructed sentence.
They help in letting readers determine which elements belong where.
In a list of lengthy items such as noun phrases, commas serve their function to help in readability.
The last item should be linked with coordinating conjunction in a series of at least three, such as and, or, or nor.
At times a comma (,) precedes the word “or”, and sometimes it does not. Decoding when to employ a comma helps in improving the quality as well as clarity of the text.
When to put a comma before or in a sentence depends on the usage of the word and.
We usually put a comma when it is connecting two independent clauses.
Here are some ways of using a comma before ‘or’
- Independent clauses:
An independent clause represents finishes or complete thought. It works as a simple sentence with a verb and a subject. An independent clause works in contact with another clause. Whether dependent or independent, it takes place in a complex sentence.
- What are coordinating conjunctions and “or”:
“Or” is one of the seven coordinating conjunctions which joins two clauses. One can easily memorise these coordinating conjunctions by remembering the mnemonic FANBOYS. In FANBOYS, F stands for “for”, A stands for “and”, N stands for “nor”, B stands for “but”, O stands for “or”, Y stands for “yet”, and S stands for “so”. We use a comma when any of the coordinating conjunctions come before an independent clause. In contrast, we do not require a comma before the conjunction to join a dependent clause.
Every coordinating conjunction has a purpose. The conjunction “Or” denotes a choice in a sentence. It integrates two grammatical elements of the same weight.
- Independent clauses require a comma before or:
Sturdy and concise statements come into being when we place a comma before “or”.
For example, He would prefer to drink coffee, or he might choose tea.
She is going to buy a one-piece, or she may buy an overcoat.
We can also make these two clauses simple sentences by removing the coordinating conjunction, i.e., “or”.
For example, He would prefer to drink coffee. He might choose tea.
When a coordinating conjunction joins two simple sentences, a comma must lead up to it.
Dependent clauses: A dependent clause doesn’t function as a simple sentence. It acts as a modifier for an independent clause. At the same time, a dependent clause is a word group that gives extra detail or information in a sentence.
No comma usage before a dependent clause: No punctuation mark is required when conjunction connects a dependent clause. The second clause cannot stand alone as a simple sentence without a subject and a verb. Therefore, it states that the second clause comes after the conjunction and becomes dependent on the first clause.
- Comma Before the punctuation “Or” in a list: We never adda comma before or in a list with two items. The second item in the list acts as a dependent clause.
For example: Would you prefer tea or coffee?
In the above example, tea and coffee coordinate with each other. Therefore, if the coordination exists, then no comma is required.
Whereas when it consists of three or more items, then you would have a choice to make. You may add a comma before the punctuation “or” or not.
- Oxford comma or serial comma: The usage of the serial comma is an extremely debatable topic. The comma derived its name from the Oxford University Press, which regularly uses it in their work. People who prefer the usage of serial commas argue that a comma before ”or” makes it easier to read the sentence. This is true in a sentence that has enough coordinating items.
She wants to buy a black, blue, or red dress.
She wants to buy a black, blue or a red dress.
Both the examples mentioned above are correct. It is just that some writers prefer using the serial comma while others do not. This comma is a stylish preference.
- Usage of a comma in a list:
Though it is not necessary, the usage of commas in lists is well established. A comma is used to separate a series of words, independent clauses and phrases.
One should never place a comma after the last item in the list unless the structure of the sentence requires it.
- When is a comma required before or after “or”?
A pre comma is required to link independent clauses, separate the last item in a lengthy series of words, or use it as the first parenthetical word in a sentence.
A post comma is whereas is also used as a parenthetical expression or an introductory clause.
- The unnecessary comma before or after “or”:
As we have already read about the pre and post comma guidelines above, it is also necessary that we should be aware of when not to punctuate or with commas.
Or may also be used for stating two kinds of choices or preferences. During such a situation, commas do not come on either side of or not to conquer the function of the conjunction. However, we would naturally pause while speaking, but a comma is not required in written text.