Should you put a comma before too, either or also?

I don’t remember much from school (who does?) but I do remember quite clearly being told that “too,” “either,” and “also” are set off with commas in uses like:

Greg saw it, too.

I’d like some, also.

Tina didn’t come, either.

The idea is that when one of these adverbs modifies a whole sentence, and especially when it comes at the end of a sentence, it should be set off with commas. That’s what I was told and that’s what I believed.

But lately, more and more professionally written and edited material seems to eschew these commas.

Greg saw it too.

I’d like some also.

Tina didn’t come either.

When they come midsentence, the commas don’t seem quite as expendable. Changing “I, too, saw the accident” to “I too saw the accident” creates a weird and perhaps momentarily confusing relationship between the adverb and the verb that follows. But these commas don’t seem quite as common as they once were, either.

Turns out that, as austere comma use continues to be the fashion, commas setting off “too” and similar adverbs are less important.

How do you know whether to use them? Well, many experts point out that the comma before a “too” or “either” can give it extra emphasis, setting it off from the pack and letting it stand alone. By skipping the comma, you deemphasize the “too” by integrating it into the sentence.

If you’re looking for a guideline, use the comma when you want the extra emphasis. Otherwise, skip it. Me, I find that old habits die hard. I’ll continue to use commas before “too,” “also,” and “either” whenever possible.

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