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Do I need a comma before "no specific" in:

In the tissue samples of the primate brain cortex, liver, muscle, kidney, lymphatic node, spleen and tonsil no specific immunohistochemical staining by Z011 was observed.

I found this explanation:

If a prepositional phrases contains four or fewer words, usually no comma is needed as in the following sentence: On the table a bottle of champagne rested, conserving its energy for the upcoming festivities. Prepositional phrases of five or more words require a comma: Beneath the dusty redwood table, the cat crouched with murderous anticipation. The punctuation marks serve to indicate how the sentence is to be read aloud. As such, the first sentence would have no pause, whereas the second sentence would be read with a slight pause after table. While the word count may appear arbitrary, it reflects an organic speech pattern.

The prepositional phrase in my example has more than four words, but they are themselves set off by commas. Maybe there's no need then for a comma before "no specific"?

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    Either use a comma there, for the sake of clarity, or start the sentence with "No specific ...was observed in ..." My personal preference is not to have a long list of items in a dependent clause opening the sentence because it delays the main clause. Such a list is better as a wagon than a horse. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 12 '16 at 10:09
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    ^ Although the sentence is not difficult to parse (especially for readers familiar with the terminology, of course), and there are stylistic reasons why we might prefer to retain this structure. For example, the observation is emphasized by its end positioning. Variety, in context, might be another reason. There is also the question of naming the subject (I, we) and placing it where our minds generally prefer it: We observed no specific . . . – Jim Reynolds Aug 12 '16 at 10:23
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Commas are a bit of a dark art in English. In your example, I would definitely use a comma before 'no specific', because otherwise it's unclear how to read/parse the sentence. The "four or fewer words" trick above is not so much a rule but rather perhaps a trick to use to decide when a comma is optional.

In your case, you definitely need a comma because it tells the reader how to parse the sentence, but I would also use a comma even if you shortened the prepositional phrase to just four words, like so: "In the tissue samples, no specific immunohistochemical staining by Z011 was observed." It just makes it easier to read in my opinion, and in scientific writing it's especially important to be clear.

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An addition to the previous answer:

In my opinion, one more reason, if not the main one, for a comma before "no specific" is that it is supposed to follow a non-restrictive appositives "spleen and tonsils" which provide additional information about the lymphatic node, i.e. that spleen and tonsil are elements of the lymphatic node.

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Either use a comma there, for the sake of clarity, or start the sentence with "No specific ...was observed in ..." My personal preference is not to have a long list of items in a dependent clause opening the sentence because it delays the main clause. Such a list is better as a wagon than a horse.

(Kudos to Tromano)

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