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Grammatically speaking, should there be a comma before "of course" when it's preceded by a conjunction?

Examples:

He ordered a batch of cup noodles and other instant food. And(,) of course, beer.

They tried fighting that losing battle, but(,) of course, they failed in the end.

Why or why not? (Maybe there should be a comma because "of course" is a parenthetical phrase?)

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Grammatically speaking, should there be a comma before "of course" when it's preceded by a conjunction?

"First, let me say that, while punctuation and grammar are related, details like commas don't generally make something ungrammatical." - JavaLatte (Grammar, punctuation, comma)

The commas may change how the sentences are read, but they do not affect the grammaticality of your sentences.

(Maybe there should be a comma because "of course" is a parenthetical phrase?)

Whether something is parenthetical (i.e., nonessential information) or not depends on the author (i.e., what the author wants to convey).

He ordered a batch of cup noodles and other instant food. And(,) of course, beer.

Note that you either put both commas (to set off "of course" as a parenthetical element in the middle of a sentence) or you don't put any at all if you don't intend to set it off as a parenthetical element.

The single comma does not make much sense (to me); it is not required because the sentence is quite small.

There are three reasons to put a single comma: (1) To indicate a pause in speech, (2) to emphasize or draw attention to "beer", and (3) to indicate that "And of course" is an introductory phrase (as pointed out in comments by userr2684291).

I personally would not use a single comma to indicate that "And of course" is an introductory phrase, given how small (one word - beer) the rest of the sentence is. If I were to use a single comma, it would be either for (1) or (2).

Yes, if you want to indicate a strong break in thought, use the pair of commas to set off "of course" as a parenthetical element in the middle of the sentence. If you find yourself emphasizing "of course" when you are reading out the sentence (i.e., if you are changing the tone a bit), then you are actually looking to create some sort of an effect with "of course". If this is true, use the pair of commas. This will indicate the break in your thought or the change in your tone.

If your tone is relatively unchanged and smooth, and if none of the three reasons above for a single comma applies to you, then "of course" is just filler material, and you don't need commas. If at least one of them applies, then use a single comma.

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  • The single comma looks fine to me, and you'll find style manuals recommending it. Here's one example of such usage. Flanking commas are customary in this situation, however. I would regard And of course beer. as somewhat unsightly, and would prefer And of course – beer. or the alternatives mentioned in the question. An alternative way to punctuate the second sentence would be [...] battle but, of course, they failed [...]. – user3395 May 15 at 17:30
  • @userr2684291 I did mention in my answer that the single comma may be fine when it is meant to indicate a pause in speech, or when we want to emphasize and draw attention to "beer". If, however, "of course" is to be set off as a parenthetical (nonessential/nonrestrictive), it requires two commas. In your linked example, South Bend: Indiana city offers art, museums, adventure and, of course, Notre Dame, "of course" is a parenthetical element (it is set off by two commas). Also note how the oxford comma is not used before "and". – AIQ May 15 at 17:51
  • For the OP's second example, your suggestion "... battle but, of course, they failed ..." uses "of course" as parenthetical. You have just omitted (or not used) the comma for the coordinating conjunction. But that is not relevant to the question. I would use "... battle, but, of course, they failed ..." because when you remove the parenthetical it becomes "... battle but they failed ..." which is an independent clause joined by a coordinating conjunction, and it requires a comma before "but": "... battle, but they failed ...". – AIQ May 15 at 18:03
  • 1. It doesn't have to draw attention to beer; it can instead be used to set off an introductory phrase (of course). 2. It doesn't require two commas, as I said. 3. I didn't even see that sentence – the one I'm referring to is And of course, there’s the Fighting Irish.. Lighter punctuation favors omitting all unnecessary commas (the Oxford one in the cited example is kinda implied there – ...adventure, and, of course, Notre... would be conventional but punctuation-heavy). 4. Omitting the comma before but there is fine, and that's relevant as it makes the double commas more acceptable. – user3395 May 15 at 18:15
  • And of course, there’s the Fighting Irish ... * is a very different sentence than the one where there is just one word after the introductory phrase - "beer". But, sure, it does work like that as well - for setting off introductory phrases. "Introductory phrase" is something the OP does not talk about, however. And a parenthetical in the middle of a sentence does require two commas. I clearly said that OP should use two commas if they want "of course" to be parenthetical element. Omitting the comma before "but" is *not relevant here because the OP doesn't ask about it (cont.) – AIQ May 15 at 18:34
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This dictionary
Collins "of course"

calls it an adverb, and shows examples of its use not set off by commas.
I think commas, or even parentheses, could be used, if you wanted to frame it that way, but it's not necessary.

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