Do You Use a Comma With “Not Only…But Also”?

"Not only… but also" is a common English phrase used to present two related pieces of information. It emphasizes that both parts of the statement are equally significant. This phrase is typically used as a correlative conjunction, meaning it connects two equivalent elements within a sentence.

In many instances, "not only" introduces the first element, and "but also" introduces the second. This construction allows for a balanced, parallel structure in the sentence. For instance, in the sentence "She is not only an artist but also a musician," the phrase "not only… but also" connects two aspects of a person's identity in a cohesive and symmetrical manner.

General Rules for Comma Usage with "Not Only…But Also"

When using "not only… but also" in a sentence, it's essential to understand the correct punctuation associated with it. Generally, you do not need a comma with "not only… but also" when it connects two items within a sentence. This is because the two parts it connects are often closely related and don't require a break in the flow of the sentence.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. If "not only… but also" is used to connect two independent clauses, you may need to use a comma before "but also." Similarly, when "not only" begins a sentence, it's often followed by a comma. Remember, the use of a comma can change the meaning or the rhythm of a sentence, so it's crucial to apply these rules judiciously.

Examples in Context

Before we dive into the examples, it's worth noting that the placement of a comma can alter the meaning of a sentence. It's crucial to understand the context of the sentence to determine if a comma is necessary.

Without a comma

Sentence Correct/Incorrect Explanation
She is not only an artist but also a musician. Correct No comma is needed as "not only…but also" is connecting two items within a sentence.
He not only plays the piano but also composes his music. Correct No comma is needed because the two parts are closely related.
They not only won the game but also broke a record. Correct No comma is needed because the two clauses are not independent.

With a comma

| Sentence | Correct/Incorrect | Explanation |
| Not only is she an artist, but also a musician. | Correct | A comma is needed here as "not only" begins the sentence. |
| He plays the piano, not only beautifully, but also with great passion. | Correct | Commas are used here to set off the additional information in the sentence. |
| They won the game, but also broke a record. | Incorrect | A comma should not be used before "but also" when it connects two items in a sentence. |

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When using "not only… but also," there are several common mistakes to avoid. One is using a comma before "but also" when it's not necessary. This can break the flow of the sentence and may confuse the reader.

  • To avoid this, remember the general rule: don't use a comma with "not only… but also" unless it's connecting two independent clauses or when "not only" begins a sentence.

Another common mistake is using "not only… but also" to connect items that are not equivalent or parallel in structure.

  • Keep in mind that "not only… but also" is a correlative conjunction and should connect two equivalent elements within a sentence.

Comparing "Not Only…But Also" with Other Similar Terms

Though "not only… but also" is often confused with "either… or" and "neither… nor," their uses and comma rules differ.

  • "Either… or" and "neither… nor" can often be used interchangeably with "not only… but also," but the comma rules for "either… or" and "neither… nor" are not the same.

  • Unlike "not only… but also," "either… or" and "neither… nor" do not generally require a comma unless they are used to connect two independent clauses.

Quick Recap and Key Takeaways

To recap, the phrase "not only… but also" serves as a correlative conjunction, connecting two equivalent elements within a sentence. Generally, this phrase does not require a comma unless it's used to connect two independent clauses or begins a sentence.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • "Not only… but also" typically does not require a comma.
  • If "not only" begins a sentence, it's often followed by a comma.
  • Avoid using a comma before "but also" when connecting two items in a sentence.
  • Ensure the two elements connected by "not only… but also" are equivalent and parallel in structure.

Keep these rules in mind to ensure your use of "not only… but also" is grammatically correct and effectively communicates your message.

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