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At the restaurant where the food is served on time, the waiters work well together and hospitality increases, customers are pleased and the restaurant earns a good reputation. Conversely, at the restaurant where the food is not served on time, relationships therein are strained and arguments occur, customers become displeased with the service and it earns negative reviews.

I’m trying to learn the ‘rules’ for using commas. There are five commas in both these sentences. Please can you tell me why they have been used, if more could be added and if they could be replaced with another type of punctuation.

For example I know the first comma has been used because it comes after the introductory phrase.

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    These rules about commas and punctuation generally are not universally accepted. I would advise you, therefore, not to spend too much time worrying about them and to focus instead on learning the language. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 14 '16 at 13:35
  • I just want to throw this out there. Mostly about the semi-colon but also touches on the comma and also everyone needs to see this once in their life: theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon – JamieB Oct 14 '16 at 18:38
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Commas are primarily used for separating sections of text, for lists, and for emphasis.

In the first sentence:

At the restaurant where the food is served on time,

The comma defines this as a section, in this case, it is the subject.

the waiters work well together and hospitality increases, customers are pleased and the restaurant earns a good reputation.

This part is a list:

  • the waiters work well and the hospitality increases
  • customers are pleased
  • the restaurant earns a good reputation

Conversely,

The comma here is used for emphasis because you are suddenly talking about the opposite.

at the restaurant where the food is not served on time,

Like above, this is a section, in this case the subject.

relationships therein are strained and arguments occur, customers become displeased with the service and it earns negative reviews. Like above, this is a list too.

If I were writing it, I would include extra commas in the list. These are called Oxford commas (or Serial commas). When creating a list, some people choose to put a comma before the last and:

Without Oxford comma:

I like cats, dogs and monkeys.

With Oxford comma:

I like cats, dogs, and trees.

  • 'the waiters work well together and hospitality' would you place a comma before 'and'. theres no comma here is that correct – steppingstones Oct 17 '16 at 10:10
  • I would not use a comma with and together. I would say The waiters work well together, hospitality increases, .... or keep the original. I would only use and if it was the last item in the list, and I would use it with an oxford comma e.g. The food is served on time, the waiters work well together, and hospitality increases. It depends if you want to group those two things together. Sometimes you will want to do this, for example "I went home, took off my shoes, fed my dog and cat, and went to bed." I want to express that I fed my cat and dog together so I don't use a comma. – NibblyPig Oct 18 '16 at 6:20
  • I understand now. Your reply answered exactly what I was wondering. Thank you!!! – steppingstones Oct 18 '16 at 8:23
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The first comma is inside an introductory prepositional phrase.  The second comma ends this phrase.

There is a three-element coordination.  The elements are "the food is served on time", "the waiters work well together", and "hospitality increases".  The entire coordination belongs to the word "where", which your framework might label as a preposition, a subordinating conjunction, a relative adverb, or who knows what else. 

1)  The first comma separates the first two elements of the coordination.  An optional comma could be placed in front of "and". 

2)  There is an introductory phrase: "at the restaurant where [these three things happen]".  This is a long and complex phrase, so I have to strongly recommend using the comma that follows it, even if your framework considers that comma to be optional. 

The first sentence is a compound sentence.  There could have been a comma between the two independent clauses.  Certain old-fashioned prescriptive grammars describe this as a required comma.  Today, like the Oxford comma, this comma seems to be more a question of style.

3)  The next comma follows the introductory adverb "conversely".  Not only is this adverb introductory, it is supplemental.  It doesn't modify any element within the following clauses, but rather modifies the rest of the sentence as a whole. 

4)  There is another coordination of three elements: "the food is not served on time", "relationships therein are strained", and "arguments occur".  Once again, elements that are not joined by a conjunction are necessarily separated by a comma.

5)  The phrase "at the restaurant where [three contrasting things happen]" is another long and complex introductory phrase. 

 

We know that the two coordinations which are the objects of the words "which" are three-element coordinations because the coordinate conjunctions come before the third elements.  Similarly, we know that the compound sentences each contain two clauses because the coordinating conjunctions appear between pairs of clauses. 

Because the coordination of independent clauses in both compound sentences happens to be shorter and simpler than the introductory prepositional phrases which modify them, the lack of commas between clauses is the style that I prefer.

The three-element coordinations also contain complete clauses.  I would label them as subordinate clauses and label each "where" as a preposition that takes a coordination of subordinate clauses as its object.  The reasons I find the lack of a comma before these coordinating conjunctions to be better style are that there is no stronger punctuation available to end the introductory phrase and that the three-element coordinations are subordinate to the phrases which employs them.

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