Understanding the Comma Use with “Not only…but also”

Marcus Froland

Writing seems simple until you hit a sentence that feels like a puzzle. You’re cruising through your thoughts, pen dancing on paper or fingers flying over keys, and then bam! You hit a grammar rule that makes you pause. One such rule involves the tiny, yet mighty, comma—especially when dealing with the phrase “not only…but also”.

Now, this little punctuation mark might seem insignificant at first glance. But believe it or not, it can change the meaning of your sentence if used incorrectly. The phrase “not only…but also” is a prime example of where things get dicey. It’s like walking a tightrope; lean too much on one side and you’ll find yourself in a tangle of confusion. So, how do you know when to let that comma join the party? Well, let’s just say, the answer might surprise you.

When using the phrase “not only…but also” in a sentence, it’s important to know when to add a comma. You use a comma when “not only” starts a sentence, leading to an independent clause. For example, “Not only did she finish her work early, but she also helped her colleagues.” However, if “not only…but also” connects items within the same clause, no comma is needed. For instance, “She finished not only her work early but also helped her colleagues.” Remember, the key is whether “not only” introduces an independent clause or just connects items in the same clause.

The Basics of “Not only…but also” in Sentence Structure

The use of the correlative conjunction pair “Not only…but also” varies depending on whether it is connecting nouns or clauses, making it essential to understand the distinction between the two for proper punctuation and sentence flow.

Connecting Nouns vs. Clauses: When to Skip the Comma

When using “Not only…but also” to connect nouns or shorter sentence elements, commas are not needed. For example:

I enjoy eating not only lobster but also scallops and shrimp.

In this sentence, “Not only…but also” connects three different types of seafood without the use of any commas. The sentence is succinct, clear, and easy to read, showcasing that when connecting nouns, the use of commas is unnecessary.

Adding Emphasis and Clarity with Commas Between Clauses

Conversely, when “Not only…but also” connects independent clauses, a comma should be used to separate them and improve readability. Proper comma placement can also add emphasis, especially in sentences with complex structures. Consider the following example:

Not only is the restaurant known for its seafood, but it also offers a variety of delicious vegetarian options.

Here, a comma is placed after “Not only” to separate the two clauses. This usage adds weight and clarity to both thoughts, promoting a smooth reading experience.

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To further elucidate the concept, let’s examine a comparative table of sentences using “Not only…but also”:

Connecting nouns (no comma) Connecting clauses (comma)
She likes not only pizza but also pasta. Not only does she enjoy eating pizza, but she also loves making it.
The dog can not only sit but also stand on its hind legs. Not only can the dog sit on command, but it can also fetch a ball.
We visited not only Paris but also Rome during our vacation. Not only did we explore Paris, but we also discovered the beauty of Rome.

To excel in your writing, remember to use commas wisely while employing the “Not only…but also” construct. Commas aid in clause separation, sentence fluency, and clear communication. By following these grammar tips and punctuation rules, you’ll refine your writing, and master the use of “Not only…but also” to connect both nouns and clauses.

Mastering Parallelism in “Not only…but also” Constructions

In using “Not only…but also,” it is essential to maintain parallelism in writing, which means that the sentence structure that follows both parts of the conjunction should be consistent. Achieving this kind of harmonized sentence construction requires a thorough understanding of parallelism principles, balanced sentence structure techniques, and the correct use of correlative conjunctions. This section will discuss ways to ensure eloquent syntax and grammatical balance, as well as provide guidance on sentence correction and syntax improvement when working with “Not only…but also.”

Maintaining Balance with Correlative Conjunctions

Keeping a balance in sentence construction involves ensuring that the same type of word or phrase follows both “not only” and “but also.” When used with proper conjunction use, this correlative pair can create a natural flow and readability in a sentence that wouldn’t exist if the structure was imbalanced. For example:

Not only does she speak three languages, but she also writes in them fluently.

In this example, “speak” and “writes” are both verb forms that maintain a balanced sentence structure. If “not only” precedes an adjective, then “but also” should introduce another adjective for a consistent symmetry in the construction.

Spotting and Correcting Imbalance in Sentence Construction

It’s crucial to spot and correct imbalances in sentences where “Not only…but also” is used. An imbalance occurs when disparate parts of speech follow each segment of the conjunction pair. For symmetric structure and clarity, the same type of word or phrase should follow both “not only” and “but also.” Consider the following example:

Not only was the conference informative, but she also met many industry experts.

In this case, we have an imbalance in the sentence since “informative” is an adjective and “met” is a verb. A more balanced sentence would be:

Not only was the conference informative, but it was also packed with experts from the industry.

Tools like Grammarly can aid in identifying and correcting these issues to enhance the quality of writing. Properly addressing problems with parallelism and correlative conjunction use will ensure your writing remains clear and eloquent.

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Mastering parallelism in “Not only…but also” constructions is an essential skill for achieving balanced sentence structures and eloquent syntax. By ensuring consistency within your writing and employing appropriate conjunction usage, your sentences will flow naturally, and your ideas will be effectively communicated to your readers.

Common Misconceptions About Commas with “Not only…but also”

When it comes to using “Not only…but also” with commas, a variety of comma misconceptions and grammar myths abound. In this section, we will address some of these misconceptions and provide punctuation clarification for correlative conjunctions usage.

“Not only…but also” is a versatile correlative conjunction pair, but its flexibility can sometimes lead to confusion about whether or not to include commas. For most cases, commas are not required, although certain situations may call for them.

  1. Commas are not strictly needed to separate the elements in correlative conjunction pairs.
  2. Commas can sometimes be used for emphasis, however they are not mandatory.
  3. Commas can be useful when linking lengthy clauses, even though they are not obligatory by grammar rules.

Understanding these nuances is essential to dispelling grammar myths and using punctuation correctly. After properly comprehending the rules, your writing can become more fluent and clear, allowing for better communication with your audience.


While many misconceptions exist around the usage of commas with “Not only…but also,” it is important to remember that commas are generally not needed. However, in some instances where emphasis or linking lengthy clauses is desired, using a comma may be beneficial to enhance readability. By understanding these rules and clarifying common misunderstandings, you will be able to use correlative conjunctions correctly and improve the overall quality of your writing.

Advanced Usage of “Not only…but also” with Commas

Enhancing the art of writing involves mastering advanced punctuation techniques, which include the appropriate use of commas in complex sentences and structures. Specifically, the “Not only…but also” construction can be employed more effectively when the writer fully comprehends the implications of comma usage within lengthy and intricate clauses.

Handling Lengthy and Complex Clauses

When dealing with complex and detailed sentence structures that incorporate the “Not only…but also” construction, the accurate implementation of commas is critical to maintain clarity and comprehension. Lengthy or intricate clauses can become confusing without appropriate punctuation, which may impede the reader’s understanding of the content’s components.

In such cases, a comma may be employed for the sake of clarity and comprehension:

She not only went to the New York Public Library for research purposes, but also visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art to gather inspiration for her design project.

In the example above, the comma clearly separates the two extensive and thought-provoking clauses while preserving the sentence’s intended emphasis and meaning.

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Using Inversion for Emphasis: The Comma’s Role

Rhetorical emphasis can also be added to a sentence by using an inversive structure with the “Not only…but also” construction. This technique involves beginning a sentence with “not only” and following it with an auxiliary verb, then the subject. Employing a comma before “but also” is essential in these circumstances, particularly when the subject is a pronoun or when the sentence contains lengthy phrases.

Here is an example of inverted syntax for rhetorical emphasis:

Not only did she decide to further her education with a Master’s degree, but also she embarked on an international exchange program.

As shown in this instance, the inverted syntax provides a unique emphasis by utilizing a comma before “but also” to stress the sentence’s parallel structure.

The key to effectively using complex sentence structures in conjunction with the “Not only…but also” construction lies in the strategic application of commas. Mastering this skill enables a writer to amp up their structural innovation and linguistic prowess, thereby delivering content with greater impact and engagement.

Putting it All Together: Comma Best Practices with “Not only…but also”

When it comes to using “Not only…but also,” achieving punctuation excellence and writing finesse involves a nuanced understanding of comma placement. As you master conjunction proficiency, recognizing when and how to use commas will make your writing polished and eloquent. Keep in mind that typically, a comma is not needed with this correlative conjunction unless it is linking extensive clauses or for the sake of emphasis and balance in inverted sentence structures.

As you work on refining your comma best practices, remember to maintain parallelism in your writing for optimal clarity. This means ensuring that the same type of word or phrase follows both “not only” and “but also.” This practice will enhance the fluency of your sentences and facilitate better comprehension for your readers.

Remember, while comma usage is not always mandatory with “Not only…but also,” it can sometimes serve to emphasize and clarify your writing when dealing with complex or lengthy clauses. By incorporating these principles into your writing, you will be well on your way to creating well-structured, persuasive, and engaging content for your audience.

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