Guest Editor Robin Cruise: When Do You Put “and” Before “then”?


Dear Natasha…

Ah, the best answer for your first question just might be … yes and no! It’s like asking whom you like better—or who is ultimately more useful—your hip, hot aunt Mimi or your deliberate, precise aunt Prissy. Ultimately, it might be that in a pinch each of them is just right in her own way. OK, Mimi-of-the-purple-hair is a little loosey-goosey, and a casual vibe is fine by her. She’s all about rhythm and ease, and she’d be likely to blurt: “I gobbled, burped, and bolted!” As for Aunt Prissy-of-the-sunscreen-and-sensible-shoes? Well, she likes her proverbial ducks lined up in a tidy row—and a clear, linear order for things. From Prissy’s perspective, things don’t tend to happen all at once, in an avalanche, and she prefers a slower, first-things-first mode. Prissy would be more inclined to advise: “I yawned, stretched, and then slowly opened my eyes.” Ultimately, your question is about pacing—and the answer/choice is all yours. You don’t need the word and before then, but … you just might want it, to apply the brakes!

-Guest Editor Robin Cruise
Red Pencil Consulting

Robin Cruise is committed to literacy and has been involved, as both an author and a publishing professional, in creating books for young readers for the past twenty years. Her experience includes more than 15 years with the children’s books division of Harcourt Trade Publishers. Robin lives in Kirkland, Washington, where she is the founder and principal of Red Pencil Consulting. In that capacity she works closely with authors, editors, and others to develop and deliver manuscripts, books, and additional high-quality content for publication and other uses. Contact Robin through her website,


  1. Another great way for writers to manipulate pacing! Thanks, Robin, for clarifying this—and in such a spunky way.

  2. Dear Readers, Robin is a special guest for me. Robin gave me my first job in publishing and her creativity, industry wisdom, and business acumen have inspired me ever since. She’s spent her career behind the scenes as managing editor, deputy publisher, and then publisher, with both trade publishers and book packagers. I’m so pleased she’s finally stepping out with her editorial consulting business Red Pencil Consulting. Many publishers and individual writers will benefit from her creativity, encouragement, and wisdom.

    • Deborah, thanks for the cameo appearance here on Reeling you in as a publishing colleague was clearly a smart move on my part—and collaborating with you over the years has been both edifying and great fun. It speaks volumes that our paths continue to cross, both in person and in print. Write on!

  3. It seems to me that in a sentence like:
    “I ran out the door, then the building blew up behind me.”
    If you don’t put an “and” before the “then” you have a comma splice.

    • Sticklers for grammar are careful to correct comma splices, which use a comma to join two independent clauses. The correct way to go is to separate the clauses by using the appropriate end-stop punctuation (period, exclamation mark, or question mark), a semicolon (I’m not typically keen on them!), or a coordinating conjunction (and, but, nor, or, so, yet). It’s wise to avoid comma splices, as they’re assumed to be errors that signal sloppy writing. That said, there are reasonable exceptions to this rigid approach. Assuming the writer has used a comma splice intentionally, some leeway makes sense for dialogue or if the two independent clauses are short and closely related. (I laughed, I cried.) Comma splices are also an efficient way to punctuate a sentence in which independent clauses are used to highlight contrast. (He’s my father, she’s my stepmother.)

  4. In my opinion, the original question was never fully answered. Is it acceptable to use “then” without “and?” As an example, MSWord is telling me that its use in the following sentence is incorrect: “We worked backward from each desired possibility, matched the commonalities, then arranged connections to the proper inputs.” In a case like this, I thought it indicated an order of events (rather than three things happening in any random order). MSWord doesn’t give me the same error for this sentence: “We walked to the park, to the store, then back home.” Am I missing something? Or am I just an idiot for concerning myself with what MSWord thinks? After four and a half years, I’m guessing nobody will respond to this, but figured I would give it a try.

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