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  1. joenuts's Avatar
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    #1

    "that's why"

    Which punctuation mark should be placed before the phrase 'that's why'? I'm annoyed when I see a comma bafore it. It sounds like a run-on sentence.
    "She was sick , that's why she wasn't able to come."
    I don't use this phrase, but when I check sentences containing it ( and the comma) I'm not entirely sure of the punctuation. May we insert 'and' between the comma and 'that's' to make the sentence correct? May we replace the comma with a semicolon?


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
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    #2

    Re: "that's why"

    Quote Originally Posted by joenuts
    Which punctuation mark should be placed before the phrase 'that's why'? I'm annoyed when I see a comma bafore it. It sounds like a run-on sentence.
    "She was sick , that's why she wasn't able to come."
    I don't use this phrase, but when I check sentences containing it ( and the comma) I'm not entirely sure of the punctuation. May we insert 'and' between the comma and 'that's' to make the sentence correct? May we replace the comma with a semicolon?
    My own opinion would be that a colon probably fits best, as both can be independent sentences and the second sentence clearly adds information to the first. So, "She was sick: That's why she wasn't able to come." The colon makes a hard pause; harder than a semicolon, but less hard than a full stop.

    You may then find yourself in an argument about whether the first word should be capitalized or not. I do capitalize, mainly for pragmatic reasons, because many style guides (notably Chicago) say that you ought to do so if the clause after the colon forms a complete sentence; and so many editors expect it. On the other hand, others will argue that a colon is not a sentence break, and so a capital should not be used. That is how I was taught English myself as a child. It's all rather silly, and boils down to individual stylistic preference really.

    As to your alternatives, I feel the comma is too soft and so is incorrect. A semicolon is better, but does not properly convey the causal relationship. Using a conjunction would be an acceptable (and safer) alternative. It often is if you are unsure about the exact nuances of punctuation.

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    #3

    Re: "that's why"

    Native speakers often cheat their way around tricky punctuation issues by using a dash.


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
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    #4

    Re: "that's why"

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Native speakers often cheat their way around tricky punctuation issues by using a dash.
    It's often dashed convenient, I have to admit .

  2. joenuts's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: "that's why"

    I suppose it's clear then that a comma is not appropriate.
    Thank you for your responses. This is my first time to join a forum, and I'm finally getting answers to questions that have been gnawing my mind.

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