How many commas is too many commas?

For example:

By looking at our data we can see a clear pattern, or trend, in our data that, as the steepness of the inclined plane increases, the effort force needed to make the object move increases, but...

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    – Secespitus
    Mar 8, 2018 at 10:53

2 Answers 2


How many commas?

Instinctively you have too many, but you are using most correctly.

The comma before 'but' is only appropriate if 'but' begins an independent clause or if there is another dependent clause that you are setting off.

In your example a case can be made for all the commas (except potentially the last, and perhaps also the comma preceding 'as'), but you'd do better to rephrase so that you don't have so many nested dependent clauses.

Here's a great link for the rules.

  • 4
    I started to write my own answer, but decided that you had mentioned too much of it already. The only thing I would really add is the 'unspoken' rule that you can use commas to clarify meaning, even if they aren't technically necessary. Also, your advice to simply rephrase so you don't need to use as many commas is great, since an overabundance of them, while technically correct, can sometimes hamper reading. Mar 7, 2018 at 22:10
  • For another example of technically correct but hampering reading (or understanding): "When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go, gone also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?" (I don't know if those words really were uttered in a court room.) Sometimes in our effort to make a statement clear and unambiguous, we end up making it so convoluted that it's impossible to tell at a glance what's being said in the first place, at which point we fail at communication.
    – user
    Mar 8, 2018 at 15:31

@DPT got my biggest complaint... there are a few others I would like to point out.

a clear pattern, or trend, in our data

That was my big complaint. I would suggest that you fix the Pattern/Trend defintion thingy as both should be easily known by your intended audience. Trend is more clinical, which is what this looks like this is going for.

our data that, as the steepness

This comma is not needed. You're not separating two like or similar items here. Change to "...that as..."

TL;DR: Loose all but the second to last comma and excise the "or trend" in some way to make it fit better. Depending on what follows the "but..." you have, you're getting close to a run-on-sentance. State that you have the trend, then explain the objection being noted by the But. Two sentences.

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