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I asked this question before, and I accepted a well explained answer. However, I am still struggling with the problem. In the meantime, I did my own research which further led to more confusion.

My problem concerns the use of commas. Others, who hold esteem positions in the usage of English Language have suggested that the commas are necessary. [shown in square brackets].

According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers from the weapons industries [,] and at least half a million demobilized soldiers [,] out of work and out on the streets.

Note: I feel that the bold part together, joined by "and" is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Putting "and at least half a million demobilized soldiers" within a pair of commas makes it nonessential. But it is not nonessential information and without this, although the sentence would make sense, the meaning of the sentence would be significantly different. "Essential clauses are necessary to identify the person or thing that is being described. They are essential to understanding the sentence. They restrict the meaning to that specific person/thing." According to this, the part about soldiers limits the meaning of my sentence, and it is thus essential.

Also, according to this: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/commas/extended_rules_for_commas.html Point number 14 says Don't put a comma between the two nouns, noun phrases, or noun clauses in a compound subject or compound object.

NOTE: Link to the first question for complete context. Comma usage and placement

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It's true that essential information should not be put between a pair of commas that would make the sentence parse as if the information were nonessential. But it's also not the case that a pair of commas automatically makes the information between them nonessential.

Commas can be used as a replacement for and or or when there are more than two items in a list, as a pause after an introductory phrase, or as a pause in other contexts.

In your example sentence, however, that is not the case.


The only way to understand your sentence with the commas is that and at least half a million demobilized soldiers is nonessential information. If that's not the case, then the commas need to be removed.

There is nothing ungrammatical about this:

According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers from the weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers out of work and out on the streets.

It takes more parsing than a simpler sentence would, but it has essentially the same syntactical form as something like this:

It would leave thousands of people and their many dogs without food.

There is no need to put and their many dogs between a pair of commas; if you did, you would change the meaning. Your sentence is no different.

The only reason I can think of for insisting that there be a pair of commas is that people are interpreting the information as nonessential when it isn't. This interpretation is happening at an unconscious level because of the sentence's awkward phrasing.

It could be made easier to parse (and to understand as having essential information) with a simple change:

According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave both thousands of workers from the weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers out of work and out on the streets.

A more substantial rephrasing would help with this even more:

According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave many from two groups of people out of work and on the street: thousands of workers from the weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers.

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