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I'm a little hung up on where to put the commas and if they are necessary.

I’m in love with a lot of things, but if I had to pick one, it would be chicken, for my love for it trumps all.

I feel like it has too many commas but I don't know which ones belong.

  • 1
    The narrative is a bit long, but looks fine. The comma after "things" is optional, but in no way takes away from the meaning of the sentence. Personally, I would change "it" for "chicken" just to emphasize chicken "my love for chicken trumps all!", and add "just", "to pick just one". – Peter Apr 19 '16 at 20:13
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Your sentence is correctly punctuated. Here are the reasons for each comma:

I'm in love with a lot of things, but...

In this case, you are joining two independent clauses with a conjunction. Note that everything together after the "but" is an independent clause, not just up to the next comma.

If I had to pick one, it would be chicken...

Here you are starting an independent clause with a dependent clause. If you think of the above as a complete sentence, it may look more reasonable.

...it would be chicken, for my love for it trumps all.

In this case, the (first) "for" acts as a conjunction as well, so you are in the clear.

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There is a lot of scope for flexibility in punctuation. If you are not satisfied that you have punctuated a sentence clearly, I recommend consulting a style guide. This is a comprehensive guide with lots of clear explanations and examples.

I think that the appropriate section concerns compound complex clauses:

When a dependent clause occurs between two independent clauses and applies only to the second, the dependent clause should be set off with commas.

I also recommend replacing the first for with because: it is already a potentially confusing sentence, and it doesn't help to have two fors in a row with different functions.

I’m in love with a lot of things, but if I had to pick one, it would be chicken because my love for it trumps all.

An alternative approach would be to replace the first comma with a colon: this rule covers using a colon in this way.

[Use a colon] between independent clauses when the second explains, [expands on] or illustrates the first

What's left after the colon is still a compound complex sentence, but the dependent clause has moved to the beginning of it, so this rule applies:

When a sentence begins with a dependent clause that applies to two independent clauses that follow, insert a comma after the dependent clause, but do not insert a comma between the independent clauses.

This is what it will look like:

I’m in love with a lot of things: if I had to pick one, it would be chicken because my love for it trumps all.

  • +1 for changing "for" to "because". You can also use "since". Regarding the colon: shouldn't it be a semicolon instead? a semicolon is a separator similar to a comma, but stronger; whereas a colon is typically used for other purposes, for example: explaining or expanding on a previous statement, or listing several items. – laugh Apr 19 '16 at 21:09
  • The semicolon idea is great! I do agree with the comment though, it should be a semicolon, not a colon. Thanks. – Abs Apr 19 '16 at 22:11
  • @laugh: The stuff after the semicolon expands on the clause before the semi-colon. "I like lots of things: I like chicken best", and therefore a colon is perfect. I have added this rule to my answer as an explanation. – JavaLatte Apr 20 '16 at 4:52
  • @abs: A semi colon would be better if the two clauses could stand as two aeparate sentences: " I like lots if things; my brother just likes chicken". – JavaLatte Apr 20 '16 at 5:04
  • I think the colon would fit better as a separator instead of the "for", as in: "if I had to pick one, it would be chicken: my love for it trumps all." – laugh Apr 20 '16 at 16:26

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