Separate a Dependent Clause from an Independent Clause

A dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence should be separated from the independent clause that follows it by a comma. (Dependent clauses often start with the words after, although, as, because, if, since, when, or while, among other words.)

• Although Mr. Samuels meant it for the best, his comment was counterproductive.

• As it turned out, we were able to attend the conference.

• Because of the change in leadership, the project deadline was extended.

If a dependent clause follows or interrupts an independent clause, the clauses are not separated by commas if the dependent clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence (a restrictive clause). If the dependent clause is not essential to the meaning (nonrestrictive), commas should by used to separate it from the independent clause.

• The Farrow Corporation proposal arrived after we had selected our new supplier. (The dependent clause "after we had selected our new supplier" provides essential information about when the proposal arrived; therefore, no comma precedes it.)

• We can discuss our next step in person or, if you'd prefer, via E-mail. (The dependent clause "if you'd prefer" is separated from the independent clause by commas because it is nonrestrictive.)

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