Here's an example.

This is from the novel 1Q87 by Haruki Murakami.

Just before noon, Tengo put on a raincoat and hat and was headed out to the local market when he noticed a brown padded envelope in his mailbox.

I would have written the first part like this: Just before noon, Tengo put on a raincoat and hat, and was headed out ... So the reader doesn't think for a second that the list continues after hat.

Is this a grammatical rule? Or maybe that comma is unnecessary?

1 Answer 1


"Hat" is not followed by a noun. Therefore "and was" cannot be construed as being part of a list of nouns.

EDIT: The sentence follows a common pattern of

subject verb ... and verb ...


Tengo put on ... and was headed out ...

One subject with respect to more than one verb. Because English requires an explicit subject, this form tends to be hard to understand if too much intervenes between the subject and one of the later verbs. Here what was put on was "a raincoat and hat", which forms an acceptably brief intervention between the two verbs. Inserting a comma just makes the break between the verbs worse. So not only is your proposed comma unnecessary, it is deleterious.

  • So the comma before "and was" is unnecessary?
    – wyc
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 6:23
  • See edit of my answer. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 11:25
  • Thanks for the edit. So how would you improve the sentence?
    – wyc
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 6:55
  • 1
    I did not (and do not) find the sentence as written and punctuated as unclear. It might be improved either by substituting "was heading" for "was headed" or by using the past perfect "had put on a raincoat and hat and headed out toward ..." Or you could reorder things, "Just before noon, after putting on ..., Tengo left for the market when ...." All of these change the style, which is almost child-like in its simplicity while conveying much information in a single sentence. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 16:42

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