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Why a comma before every 'then' huh?
Charl F king
Posted: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 12:35 AM
Joined: 11/20/2011
Posts: 24

There seems to be a trend in the States of putting a comma before every "then"
I see the need when there are complete, and related sentences on either side of "then," but all the time? eg.
She ran for her life, then spun to face him.
I don't see the need for this comma.
Apparently these are the guide lines for (MLA) Chicago, a recommended style guide for fiction writers.

Angela Martello
Posted: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 7:54 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


In the example you gave - She ran for her life, then spun to face him - think of the comma as a substitute for the word "and."

I'll admit, I can't remember grammar rules (and when I was in grade school, the years I should have learned how to diagram sentences and so on, we learned phonemes, graphemes, and morphemes), so I have a tendency to "listen" to the rhythm of language. In your example, if you read your sentence out loud, you would pause, even if just briefly, right before the word "then" - so I would put a comma there.

Charl F king
Posted: Friday, January 27, 2012 7:57 AM
Joined: 11/20/2011
Posts: 24

Sorry I was away.
I agree, there is a pause, but enough for a comma? This may not have been the best example. It's one of those irritating things. When I see a then that ought not to have I comma I should make a note.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Friday, January 27, 2012 4:02 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

agreed, if there is a comma in that position, in my mind, she has STOPPED, stood in place for a moment thinking, and THEN turned around.  Which is probably not the intent.

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2012 11:54 PM

She ran for her life, then spun to face him.

It would seem that the word “then,” when applied as you described it, implies a change of state. She was running but after that was done she stopped and did something different. So it is a complete thought, followed by another: She ran for her life. Then she spun to face him.

Posted: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 2:09 AM
Joined: 11/1/2011
Posts: 1

I wrote two sentences in Microsoft Word:

'She ran for her life, then she spun around.'


'She ran for her life then she spun around.'

Microsoft Word will highlight the first sentence as grammatically incorrect and advise that the writer join the two independent sentences with a semicolon.

If the writer insists on using "then", then Microsoft Word will recommend using a comma, followed by 'and then'.

'She ran for her life, and then she spun around.'

I didn't learn grammar from Microsoft, but it regularly tutors me. I don't know if that's a good thing. 


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