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The senator has said that prominent elected officials strongly influenced his entry into politics but that the need to help those less fortunate also played a key role in his decision.

Shouldn't there be a comma after politics and before but?

Is this a faulty sentence, a run-on?

How may I correct it if it's faulty?

  • I think you are right. – user3169 Sep 14 '14 at 1:48
  • Why do you think that it needs a comma? And if there were a comma there, could that influence how a reader might interpret that sentence? And would the comma version then be better or worse than the original? – F.E. Sep 17 '14 at 6:36
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The rule is simple for this "When a word like and, or, and but (called conjunctions) joins two standalone "sentences," you should put a comma before it.: Source: http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/commas_before_conjunctions.htm

In the sentence above you are joining two standalone sentences. You can see that they are separate statements by removing the somewhat clumsy conjunction. The "that" shows its clumsy and is not needed.

Two sentences: The senator has said that prominent elected officials strongly influenced his entry into politics. The need to help those less fortunate also played a key role in his decision.

If I was going to clean this up I would split as in the above example, or add the comma and remove the word "that".

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How much are you trying to emphasize the senator's first reason over the second? If they are both strong influences, you may get a more clear sentence with the following changes.

The senator has said that

According to the Senator,

but that the need ... key role

and also

The full sentence:

According to the senator, prominent elected officials and also a need to help the less fortunate strongly influenced his entry into politics.

if you look at your sentence and realize it has a lot of the word "that" being used, you may be in danger of a run-on or poorly organized sentence.

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The senator has said that prominent elected officials strongly influenced his entry into politics but that, the need to help those less fortunate, also played a key role in his decision.

  • "That" is not a referent in the second phrase, so that comma's misplaced. "But that" is equivalent to "it is also the case that", so if one were to use a comma, it would be after "politics". – Joe McMahon Sep 18 '14 at 23:24
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The sentence is lengthy but not incorrect.

Its structure is basically "He said X but Y", which does not need punctuation as long as X and Y are sufficiently simple as to not make it ambiguous as to where the separation between the two is. "He sleeps with a night light but not a teddy bear".

Adding a comma makes the distinction more explicit and clear; in this case, I'd probably have put in the comma even though it's not required.

He said he wouldn't be taking campaign contributions, but that dinners with contributors were of course welcome.

Note also that my lead sentence could have as well been written

The sentence is lengthy, but not incorrect.

It's a matter of taste in such places; the comma here emphasizes that both cases are true and draw attention to one, then to the other.

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Here's my view:

You need to separate the ideas of the phrase:

[The senator has said] that [prominent elected officials strongly influenced his entry into politics but (that) the need to help those less fortunate also played a key role in his decision.]

Comma is used to separate ideas. If we were to put a comma before "but", it means to put a "but" to the first idea of the senator declaring that sentence. For example:

The senator has said that prominent elected officials strongly influenced his entry into politics, but also said that the need to help those less fortunate also played a key role in his decision.

For that matter, the correct phrase would be:

The senator has said that prominent elected officials strongly influenced his entry into politics but the need to help those less fortunate also played a key role in his decision.

(And if we put a comma before "but" in this last one that would mean the one who wrote it consider "the need to help those less fortunate also played a key role in his decision", not that he himself said that.)

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