There are a lot of questions about commas and many of them are duplicates but some are not so easy to define as duplicates, such as this one. Then, they seem to mostly be matters of opinion.

Would it be possible to state a brief set of rules that indicate when a comma question would not be a matter of opinion so that the ones which are can be clearly voted as such ?


You seem to be asking when the “primarily opinion-based” close reason would apply to a question about using commas. The example you link to is not opinion-based. Opinion-based refers to questions which fail to offer objective answer criteria. Questions like:

  • What is your favorite word?

  • Please write some choice insults I can use to shame my suitemate.

  • capitalization is stupid. discuss.

  • If the Normans had never invaded England, what would English sound like now?

To put it another way, opinion-based is not about having more than one correct answer. Questions which pose objective problems can still have more than one legitimate solution.

And let’s not forget that we do welcome constructive opinion-based questions. See: “What types of questions should I avoid asking?”, and its companion articles on the Stack Overflow blog, “Good Subjective, Bad Subjective” and “Real Questions Have Answers”.

  • Thank you for clarifying this. So the 'comma splice' question, you are saying, is not a matter of opinion but there are two objectively acceptable answers to such a question.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 19 '18 at 15:05
  • 3
    @NigelJ It still depends on the voters. To some, all punctuation or style questions would be p-o-b, cuz style varies, a lot.
    – NVZ
    Mar 19 '18 at 15:33
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    @NVZ Not, that, much, doncha, know,
    – Mitch
    Mar 19 '18 at 16:17
  • Comma questions almost never have objective answers. The only ones I could think would be objective would be ones asking for pure corpus statistics. Mar 20 '18 at 1:05

I think that every question about he usage of the comma in a particular situation is either fine or can easily be turned into a non-opinion-based one. In each such case, there is a small amount of arguments for or against using a comma (often only for one side) and a good answer can provide them. Like every other question asked in a prescriptivist mindset, we can answer it in a descriptivist way, even without being explicitly asked to do so. You could even go so far and claim that if such questions should be closed as primarily opinion-based, so should everything else on this site.

That being said, I can imagine questions on commas that are opinion-based beyond hope like:

Is using more commas than necessary a sign of character weakness?

but those are clearly different from your typical comma question and closing them is hopefully not a matter of debate.


I vote to close most comma questions (and indeed, most punctuation questions, especially ones involving colons and semicolons) as POB.

The exceptions are:

  • ones which specify a formal style guide
  • ones which ask for corpus statistics
  • Helpful. Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 20 '18 at 1:08
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    @curiousdannii: Comma questions almost never have objective answers. – I disagree. You can almost always have an objective answer that elaborates how others argue for or against using a comma in a specific case or what common conventions are. Can you elaborate why you consider punctuation questions more subjective than questions on grammar, the meaning of words, or similar?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 20 '18 at 9:22
  • @Wrzlprmft Because grammatical questions have something rigid to actually refer to: the language faculties of people's minds. Punctuation is just custom and preference, and usually much more preference than custom. Mar 20 '18 at 10:25
  • @curiousdannii: I fail to see a big difference. Grammar also is subject to custom (in the sense of being historically grown) and preference. Statistically, there may be more agreement on grammar than on punctuation, but the distributions strongly overlap. For example, there is certainly less agreement whether I should use whether or if in this sentence than whether a comma should be placed just before this. Most importantly, the difference is not fundamental: In both cases we have to and can take a descriptivist stance.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 20 '18 at 10:32
  • @Wrzlprmft Fair enough, there could be descriptive punctuation questions. But 99% of the ones asked here are not. Mar 20 '18 at 10:56
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    @curiousdannii Neither are most of the grammar questions; the crucial question is what we make of it, i.e., whether we edit the question accordingly and how we answer it.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 20 '18 at 11:00
  • Or we vote to close prescriptivist questions that don't specify a style guide as POB, and wait for the OP to decide which direction to take their question. Mar 20 '18 at 11:11
  • We can also shut down the site with immediate effect.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 22 '18 at 21:04

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