So, if the information you provide is critical to the meaning of the sentence, then you shouldn’t use a comma.
For instance, when talking about your oldest brother, you should say, “My brother John is …” The reason the word “John” is important is that it specifies which brother you are talking about.
Alternatively, if the information can be omitted from the sentence without affecting the overall meaning, then you should put a comma before it.
In the above example involving your oldest brother, you could say, “My oldest brother, John, …”
In the latter example, you’ve already specified which brother you are talking about when you said that they were the oldest.
Ergo, the word “John” doesn’t add anything new to the sentence, which is why you should surround it with commas.
Another example of how parenthetical information should be marked off with commas can be seen with the preposition “along with.”
- 1 Does “along with” need a comma before it”?
- 2 Using commas with “along with”
- 3 The different usages of “along” and how to punctuate them
Does “along with” need a comma before it”?
As you may already have guessed, whether the preposition “along with” takes a comma before it depends on the importance of the information it presents. Necessary information is not separated from the rest of the sentence, whereas parenthetical information may take a comma before it. The word “along” can also be used as an adverb, in which case it rarely needs a comma before it.
Using commas with “along with”
As we said earlier, when it comes to “along with,” the use of commas depends on whether the ensuing information is necessary to understand the sentence or not.
One way to determine whether the information is necessary for the sentence is to remove it and see if the sentence still makes sense without it.
If the sentence still delivers the same meaning, then the information wasn’t necessary.
I gave her, along with the rest of the team, a piece of my mind.
In the above sentence, if you were to remove “along with the rest of the team,” the sentence would still make sense.
Ergo, you have the option of setting off this prepositional phrase or not with commas, but you are usually advised to do so in long sentences. It gives the reader a chance to breathe.
I can’t go along with your plan.
Here, “along with your plan” is necessary for understanding the sentence. If you remove it, you change the entire meaning. Ergo, you can’t set it off with commas.
A word on using “along with”
Before we move on, there is an important mistake we should look at, one that several writers may unwittingly fall into.
“Along with” does not function as a coordinating conjunction. This means that when you use it along with another noun, you still should use the singular form.
The woman and her company know how to build good products.
The woman along with her company knows how to build good products.
While the first sentence takes the plural form “know,” the latter sentence takes the singular “knows.”
The same thing applies when using “as well as” and “besides” (see example below).
I as well as my brother am reading the book from start to finish.
The different usages of “along” and how to punctuate them
According to the MacMillan dictionary, “along” has a few primary uses.
”Along” as an adverb
When used as an adverb, “along” means arrive at a place or go towards it. It can also mean to bring someone with you or take them wherever you are going.
One of the things to notice here is that “along” the adverb rarely takes a noun after it.
When the car came along, we felt elated.
You might have noticed that there is a comma after “along” in the above sentence.
However, that comma has nothing to do with the word “along.” Instead, it used to demarcate the relative clause “when the car came along” and separate it from the main clause.
They’re headed to the park, and I think I might come along.
The paramedics should be along in 15 minutes.
You forgot to bring your bag along, didn’t you?
Move along folks. Nothing to see here.
The punctuation surrounding “along” the adverb
As you may have noticed, this type of word doesn’t need any commas, and should a comma be used, it will be due to the sentence structure itself rather than something attributable to “along” the adverb.
”Along” as a preposition
There are two ways “along” can act as a preposition. On the one hand, it can come on its own. On the other hand, it can be part of the phrase “along with.”
We will look at each one individually.
”Along” the lone preposition
When “along” is used as a preposition, it is used to indicate movement on or beside a line. In fact, “along” always evokes a sense of linearity somehow.
Now, in contrast to “along” the adverb, “along” the preposition always needs a noun after it, creating a prepositional phrase.
This prepositional phrase can come at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence, and it can acts as an adverbial phrase, modifying the verb in a sentence. That said, it can also act as an adjective phrase, modifying a noun.
We walked along the yellow brick road.
Here, the prepositional phrase “along the yellow brick road” acts as an adverbial phrase that modifies the verb “walked.”
Along the seashore, you will find several beautiful pebbles.
Again, “along the seashore” modifies the verb “find,” telling us where to look.
The trees along the riverbank are blossoming.
In the above sentence, “along the riverbank” is an adjective phrase that modifies the word “trees” and specifies which trees we are talking about.
There are a few things we should highlight.
For starters, the noun of this prepositional phrase has to be plural. You can’t say, “the tree along the river.” Rather, if you want to talk about a single tree, you would say, “the tree by the river.”
The reason for this is that “along” gives us an idea of both the relation of the trees to the river and the relation of the trees to each other.
Put differently, it paints a picture of the trees lying all on the same line, the line that runs along the river bank.
The second thing to notice here is that unless you use linking verbs, the adjective phrase started by “along with” has to be adjacent to the noun it is modifying.
Unlike adverbial phrases, you don’t get a lot of free choice when it comes to placing an adjective phrase within a sentence.
Does “along” the lone preposition take a comma before it?
This type of “along” starts a prepositional phrase that can act either as an adverbial phrase or an adjective phrase.
When behaving as an adverbial phrase, it is subject to the same rules that apply to all adverbial phrases.
This means that if “along” comes at the end of a sentence, then you don’t need any punctuation.
If it comes at the beginning of a sentence, then you will need punctuation after the prepositional phrase.
And, when the adverbial phrase comes in the middle of the main clause, it is set off on both sides by a comma.
I walked along the main road to school.
Since “along the main road” comes after the main clause, there is no need for a comma before it.
Additionally, there is another prepositional phrase that also acts as an adverbial phrase in the above sentence, the phrase “to school.”
Along the battle line, gunfire could be heard everywhere.
Seeing as “along the battle line” comes at the beginning of the above sentence, you should place a comma after it.
The men, along the bridge, marched.
Even though the above sentence is grammatically correct, it has so many other problems that I wouldn’t recommend using this structure. To begin with, it sounds unnatural and awkward.
Additionally, it is easy to confuse the adverbial phrase “along the bridge” for an adjective phrase.
You see, without the commas, the sentence would look like this “The men along the bridge marched”, and it would mean that the men who were on the bridge started to march.
They might have marched in any direction or even stayed on the bridge. However, with the commas, the meaning becomes that the men marched over the bridge.
The former gives us an idea of where the men were, while the latter option tells us where they marched.
Conversely, when “along” starts an adjective phrase, there is no need for a comma because it will be adjacent to its noun.
The only exception is when there is a linking verb and the sentence structure necessitates the usage of a comma.
The books along the shelf were valuable.
The books were, surprisingly, along the shelf.
”Along” as part of the double preposition “along with”
Let’s take a closer look at “along with” now. This preposition is used to mention other things or people who were involved in a particular action or event.
I’d like to come along with you.
The man, along with his wife, was lost in the city.
If I take this job, I’ll get the salary of working at a large corporation and all the benefits that go along with it.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.