Commas that Don’t Belong

What is wrong with the punctuation in this sentence:  “The Customer can then decide whether to proceed with the changes, or to re-submit a different revision list.”

The comma before the “or” is the problem. This is a common comma mistake. We remember that a conjunction (and, or, nor, but, etc.) signals the need for a comma. The problem is, we remember only half of the rule. A comma is used to join two independent phrases that are joined by a conjunction. The sample sentence above is not comprised of two independent phrases. It is comprised of an independent and a dependent phrase. In other words, the later phrase cannot stand on its own as a complete sentence; it is an incomplete thought.

To avoid unnecessary commas, read each of the sentence’s phrases to determine if they are really independent. If not, eschew the comma!