Yet Another Comma Question
May 1, 2022 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Are the commas in these sentences in the right places?

I work a job where we use a common editing website to help us write better, clearer documents. It tells me the last sentence is correct, but I'm not convinced. Grammarians, let me know!

If you feel sick, or if your temperature is over 100 degrees, go to the emergency room.

If you feel sick or your temperature is over 100 degrees, go to the emergency room.

If you feel sick, or your temperature is over 100 degrees, go to the emergency room.
posted by purple24 to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
They're all good.

(You may get some Oxford Comma discussion, but I don't think it makes any difference here.)
posted by Rash at 2:27 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

Comma-wise, your third sentence is fine. I think the second one is missing a comma and the first sentence is the best. It just needs a "Fahrenheit" after "degrees". If my temperature were over 100 on my thermometer, I'd be dead and in no position to go anywhere.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:31 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

Professional copy editor here. Number two is correct because “if” also goes with the clause starting with “your temperature”. Number one would be considered ok by some people, though the first comma isn’t necessary. Three is incorrect.

Oxford comma is completely irrelevant to this sentence.
posted by FencingGal at 2:41 PM on May 1 [21 favorites]

None of those sentences is unclear, therefore each of those sentences is correct.
posted by Etrigan at 2:42 PM on May 1

While they are all grammatically correct, the first 2 seem more natural to me. If I was writing it I would probably write the first one, but I think this is a style issue — I prefer to use more commas, but if your documents usually have few commas, go with the second.
posted by robcorr at 2:59 PM on May 1

Your sentence is just a longer formulation of “If A or B, then C.” That’s your second version. The commas in your first and third versions make “or B” the equivalent of a parenthetical clause: “If A (or if B) then C.” or “If A (or B) then C.”

In short, any version is fine.

If you want equal emphasis on both A and B, you would generally use your second version. However, because A and B are long clauses in the actual sentence, it gets harder to follow without the comma. That is probably why the software recommended the last version. It’s less formal than the first and more readable than the second.
posted by alligatorpear at 4:13 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

Another professional copy editor here to say they're all okay, and I personally prefer the second. They're all plenty clear and do a fine job of informing the reader what they should do if they feel sick or if their temp is above 100.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:15 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]

They all look clear to me. That said, I would probably write the first one if not otherwise constrained because of the parallel construction — if this or if that — and the use of commas to set off parenthetical clauses. But you’d have to be working from a fairly harsh style guide to call any of them unclear.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:03 PM on May 2

They're all fine (#3 is a bit clumsy maybe) but, as someone who belongs to the minimum comma club, I'd go for #2.
posted by dg at 10:14 PM on May 2

Grammarly suggests removing the first comma in #3.
posted by Ferrari328 at 5:14 AM on May 3

Grammarly suggests removing the first comma in #3.

Which gives you #2, which, as I said, is correct.
posted by FencingGal at 5:10 AM on May 4

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