Do you put a comma before ‘too’ or ‘either’ at the end of a sentence? We used to, but language and how we use it changes over time, and the conventions we use to help us express meaning clearly eventually change in order to reflect this. Those of us involved in publishing need to update the way we do things when the style guides we follow change.
Can’t we make our own punctuation convention style?
Can we make our own style for our book, and just punctuate and capitalise and use grammar in any way we feel works for us? No, we can’t. Well, we can, but the book will be seen as poor quality, the author as an amateur hack, and no editor would put their name to such a book. The reason being that the conventions we follow are there to help readers understand what the author is saying. Make up your own conventions and – besides having your ignorance on display for the world – you run the risk of confusing readers.
Good writing is writing that conveys the author’s meaning clearly and succinctly. Writing conventions are there to help us do that.
Break the rules at your own risk, but once you understand why they are as they are, you’ll be less inclined to want to break them. You need to know the rules before you can know whether it’s appropriate for you to break them. And it rarely is.
How do we know what’s acceptable and what isn’t?
We know what’s acceptable because we follow a style guide. For the USA, I and most indie authors, editors and publishers follow The Chicago Manual of Style. So in all those roles, but particularly in my role as an editor, I need to keep up with changes to this style guide. The last edition came out in 2017, which was a bad year for me in my personal life, so I followed the old conventions for a while, and I note that most of the authors I work with also follow the old rules in some key areas, such as putting a comma before ‘too’ or ‘either’ at the end of a sentence .
For this brand-new 17th edition of the Manual (2017), Chicago’s editorial staff once again turned to a board of advisors—professionals in publishing and academia—for input at crucial stages in the revision. And once again, observations from the Manual’s readers and, especially, those who wrote to the Q&A, were pored over and weighed, many of them guiding important aspects of the revision. Through numerous rounds of intense inquiry, feedback, and debate, the revision team has produced a thoroughly updated and expanded edition, with more than one hundred new sections of advice responding to changes and developments in everything from technology and source materials to grammar and usage.Chicago Manual of Style https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/help-tools/about.html
There’s a list of changes here: https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/help-tools/what-s-new.html, but you need to be a member to see the details, so I’m sharing just the part about having a comma before ‘too’ or ‘either’ at the end of a sentence since that’s one very obvious change. In future posts I’ll share other changes that you may not be aware of.
I never liked having a comma precede either of these words at the end of a sentence or clause because for me it drew too much attention to the words and didn’t sound natural. But for so long as the style guide I followed put that comma before ‘too’ or ‘either’ at the end of a sentence, that’s how I punctuated it. So the change works for me.
Do we put a comma before ‘too’ or ‘either’ at the end of a sentence?
Here it is, straight from the Chicago Manual of Style style guide:
6.52: Commas with “too” and “either”
The adverbs too and either used in the sense of “also” generally need not be preceded by a comma.
- I had my cake and ate it too.
- Anders likes Beethoven; his sister does too.
- The airport lacked charging stations; there were no comfortable chairs either.
When too comes in the middle of the sentence or clause, however, a comma aids comprehension.
- She, too, decided against the early showing.
What about a comma before ‘though’ at the end of a sentence?
‘Though’ is a tricky word because it take different functions in different places in a sentence. But when it’s an adverb, which is the role it plays when we use it at the end of a sentence, then you can choose to either use a comma before it or not. I prefer not to unless there is some reason to pause before the ‘though’. A comma is superfluous because there is no reason to separate the adverb from the rest of the sentence.
She wants to run on the race on Saturday. She’s not sure she has the energy though.
The teacher explained the topic clearly, but few students really understood it though.
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