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It is considered good style to place a comma before or when it begins an independent clause. An independent clause is a clause which could stand alone as its own sentence, because it has its own subject and verb.

Correct: Didi may want to spend her roulette winnings on that Ferrari she always wanted, or she may go on a luxury vacation.

Correct: Didi may want to spend her roulette winnings on that Ferrari she always wanted or a luxury vacation.

Wrong: Didi may want to spend her roulette winnings on that Ferrari she always wanted, or a luxury vacation.

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/comma-before-or/

Is "or replace the assigned value with another" is an independent clause in this example? Is it correct to put a comma before or here?

To assign a value later, or replace the assigned value with another, use [...]

Or maybe the comma should be removed, and the valid sentence to use it is

To assign a value later, or to replace the assigned value with another, use [...]

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    I don't see any imperatives here.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 11:01
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    I don't think my advice linking the comma to the spoken pause is peculiar to English. Regardless of whether some other language features exactly the same syntax as English [clause A] or [clause B], I'm sure all spoken languages include the possibility of introducing pauses to help the audience parse the syntax of an utterance. Therefore the advice about using the comma (in writing, which is effectively "artificial" language) to reflect a "parsing assistance" pause in speech (real language) should always be helpful. But there is no "strict rule" here. (Sorry! :) Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 13:51
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    You should also note that the general trend over many decades now is to use less punctuation overall. So much of what you'll find in older style guides (or indeed, older texts in general) will be "old-fashioned". Look at the way modern writers in reputable newspapers use commas, and I'm sure you'll soon agree that today's Guardian writer, for example, will be using a lot less commas than, say, Charles Dickens ever did. Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 13:56
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    Note that the fact your "alternative" is presented as an independent clause (potentially valid as a standalone sentence) has no direct relevance to the matter of whether you "should" set it off with a comma. It's really neither here nor there that the actual example features [or] she may go on a luxury vacation, as opposed to "deleting" the predictably repeated elements to leave just [or] [go] on a luxury vacation. Also note that even in your example, you've already deleted predictably repeated want to spend her roulette winnings. Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 14:16
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    @jsv: I haven't specifically looked at any supposed "authority" claiming that whether or not whatever follows or could be called an "independent clause" makes a difference as to whether or not you should use a comma. But I completely disagree with that concept, yes. Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 11:20

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What my English teachers have always said about independent clauses is they have to make sense on their own. Does "or replace the assigned value with another" make sense on its own? (no) Therefore, it is not the independant clause.

However the comma structure is still correct, you can think of it like an interjection or unnecessary information. For example, "I walked down Downing street, or Blonde street for all I care, to get to the prime minister's office". If you removed what's in the commas it should still make sense.

By the way, for the Didi sentence it should be; "Didi may want to spend her roulette winnings on that Ferrari she always wanted or ON a luxury vacation." It is not correct without the "on".

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  • Isn't it that repeating words such as "on" or, for example, "from" is optional?
    – user90726
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 11:40
  • What @jsv said. The "deletion" of "predictably repeated" on before a luxury vacation is entirely an optional stylistic choice. It's misleading for this answer to claim the text is not correct without the "on". Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 12:41
  • I'm afraid you're a bit confused as regards the use of or as a conjunction. It can connect two independent clauses. It's just a connector which doesn't belong to the second clause, and consequently the second clause makes sense. Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 16:07

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