Comma-Then is not an actual grammar structure—not by name anyway. It’s a phrase titled for a pet peeve of author Jonathan Franzen.
In his blog post, “Comma-Then,” he describes a syntax pattern that he names the “comma-then” structure, suggests its use is incorrect, and offers three examples to illustrate his point.
1. She lit a Camel Light, then dragged deeply.
2. He dims the lamp and opens the window, then pulls the body inside.
Word choice is important in writing and in speaking. It’s essential for clear communication. If you can’t get your point across, people stop listening to you no matter how entertaining you are. While this may seem obvious, it truly isn’t for some.
For example: (True story.)
I once saw a school principal tell parents at a PTA meeting that the staff plans to “accentuate the positive and insinuate the negative,” it made her look, at best, unprepared and careless. At worst, uneducated and incompetent—even drunk or high, especially when she pronounced the word with a slur and it came out sounding like, “insinunyate.”
Take a look at the text in this meme about trees. Can you guess which grammar error is most problematic? If you guessed pronoun pronoun-antecedent relationships, you’re right. They are the most misused, abused, and seriously misunderstood grammar constructs or patterns in the English language.