It’s Comma-plicated

Written By: jOakes

Rule: Drama gets a comma.

“I love you too.” This is said reciprocally.

“I love you, too.” There is drama in this situation. The person who is saying this loves you *in addition* to loving somebody else.


“He, too, understands the dilemma.” He also (in addition to other people) understands the dilemma.

“I love you, too” means something entirely different from “I love you too.” Marriages could break up over such ambiguities.

What complicates things is that if the word “too” appears at the end of the sentence, it would not again require a comma in order to mean the same thing. “He understands the dilemma too.” Again, he also (along with other people) understands the dilemma.

But if a comma appears before “too” when “too” appears as the last word of a sentence, it means something different – that he understands the dilemma in addition to understanding other things.

The reason for the commas mid-sentence is because “too” is parenthetical – so that it mimics the cadence of speech. It sounds awkward if not set apart. Usually, you should write the same way you talk.
The obvious exception to this rule is when it is s two-word adjective meaning excess. He ate too much for lunch.

Commas are crucial in sentences. Consider two variations on the following sentence: “The bear eats pineapples and leftover picnic food and leaves” means something entirely different from “The bear eats pineapples and leftover picnic food, and leaves.”

Adverbs ending in “ly” should not be hyphened before the verb – for example, “critically-acclaimed.” Unlike the case with two-word adjectives, such as dark-green monster, a hyphen is not needed for clarity. But when the adverb doesn’t end in “ly” and serves, along with the verb it modifies, as an adjective, a hyphen is required before the verb. For example, the word “slow” in “It had been a slow-going sabbatical.” But “critically acclaimed would not get a hyphen whether the context was “His book was critically acclaimed” or “He was a critically acclaimed author.” And “slow going” would not get a hyphen if the sentence ends with “slow going,” wherein the couplet serves as merely an adverb and verb instead of functioning as a two-word adjective.

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