The mnemonic FANBOYS is used to help people remember the seven most common types of coordinating conjunction: for, and, not, but, or, yet, so.
A coordinating conjunction forms a link between two independent clauses of equal weight. That is, each clause can stand on its own as a sentence, and each is given the same amount of emphasis.
Launch the microlearning module below to learn more about FANBOYS conjunctions and to test your knowledge using our interactive quiz.
Alternatively, read on for a text-only version of the microlearning.
Comma or No Comma?
FANBOYS terms are used to join two independent clauses. They can also be used within a clause.
- Joining two independent clauses = comma required: “I need to go to the shops, and I should really spend some time at the library.”
- Within a clause = no comma required: “I need to go to the shops and buy some new shoes.”
So that, but that, etc
If a FANBOYS is followed by “that”, it does not need to be preceded by a comma:
We knew that the interviews would be long and that the participants would get tired.
This construction is most often seen as so + that:
- I was tired, so I went to bed.
- I went to bed so (that) I could sleep.
The “that” in so + that is sometimes only implied in written English. As such, the easiest way to tell if “so” requires a comma is to see if the sentence works if you put “that” after so. If it doesn’t (for example, “… so that I went to bed” doesn’t work), then you need to insert a comma.
FANBOYS in Proofreading
There are two main FANBOYS issues that you will encounter and need to resolve when proofreading.
Wrong FANBOYS Term Used
Conjunctions are like prepositions in that they’re very tricky for non-native speakers of English to get completely to grips with. “And” and “but” are two that are often confused:
I want to eat a whole cake, and I’m afraid doing so isn’t good for my health.
I want to eat a whole cake, but I’m afraid doing so isn’t good for my health.
If it’s unclear what the speaker’s intent is, leave/insert the most likely conjunction and leave a comment asking them to check your changes (with an explanation if you feel it necessary to do so).
If it is clear that the wrong term has been used, just make the change directly; no comment is required.
The FANBOYS-and-commas dilemma leads to issues for native and non-native speakers of English alike.
You should correct any FANBOYS-related comma errors directly in the text. No comment is required.
Using FANBOYS terms correctly is a crucial part of proofreading. Make sure you’re comfortable with the rules around FANBOYS and comma use, as you’ll need to apply them in pretty much every document you proofread.