How To Use Commas With The Conjunction “As Well As”

If any topic will cause a collective groan from writers, it’s punctuation. 

Some writers are precise with their commas and other forms of punctuation. 

Yet others scatter em dashes, commas, and full stops like confetti throughout their manuscripts and rely on their editors to sort things out later.

When it comes to punctuation for “as well as,” there seems to be just as much confusion. 

Is there a comma before “as well as”?

What about afterward? And why?

By reading this article, you’ll know exactly what to do when placing commas around “as well as.” 

What Does “As Well As” Mean, and How Is It Used?

“As well as” can mean several different things, depending on its use. Just to make things more difficult for writers, comma placement can also differ depending on how it is used.

The good news, however, is that most of the time, you don’t need to use commas at all with that phrase.

Here are the meanings of the phrase “as well as”:

  • Too, in addition, or also
  • Along with
  • Not to mention
  • “As well as” can also be used as a comparison.

You can use “as well as” to add more information, delineate which part of a sentence is most important, and compare.

Here are a couple of examples without punctuation for “as well as”:

1) “Tymber loves watching hockey as well as playing it.”

There’s no need for punctuation in this example because all you’re showing is additional information. You could easily write this sentence as:

“Tymber loves watching hockey in addition to playing it.”

The sentence would still make complete sense, and you still wouldn’t need a comma. The sentence is clear and easy to follow, without adding punctuation.

2) “Brad wishes he could score goals as well as his brother.”

Here, you’re comparing Brad and his brother, and you don’t need to use a comma when making a comparison. In fact, using one would be grammatically incorrect.

Here are some examples without commas from well-known books:

“My Dear Lizzy, I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my dear Wickham, you must be very happy.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“Food for powder, food for powder. They’ll fill a pit as well as better.” Shakespeare, Henry IV Part I

How to Use a Comma with “As Well As”

Depending on your meaning, you can use a comma before or after “as well as.” We’ll go into those examples in more detail shortly, but there’s more to using this phrase.

You are probably also used to using “as well as” at the start of some sentences. In this case, you do need to use a comma, but you have to add it at the end of the introductory or beginning phrase in the sentence.

For example:

“As well as writing a fantasy romance book, I am also writing a series of non-fiction books on how to build fantasy worlds.”

“As well as going to chess club after school, Brad also went to football practice.”

“As well as running her own business, Amy also works part-time at a local café.”

You can see that both parts of these sentences have equal value. You need both parts, before and after the comma, to get all the information.

If you think about the rhythm of those sentences, it’s also easier to see when to take a breath and think about how you might read each sentence aloud. 

Punctuation helps with the words on the page for the writer, but it also makes the meaning clearer and the pace of the sentence more obvious to the reader.

If that isn’t obvious, try reading this sentence aloud instead:

“As well as working hard every morning at gymnastics practice Eva also spent time on her studies each afternoon.”

That’s a long jumble of words with no clear break, and you perhaps need to read it more than once to pick out where the pause should be. Obviously, that’s incorrect, and the comma should appear after the word “practice.”

Again, these are also examples where you could replace “as well as” with “in addition to” and each sentence would still make sense.

Using a Comma Before “As Well As”

When using a comma before “as well as,” it has a particular effect on your sentences. It’s important to know what effect it has so that you can use it correctly and give your readers the right meaning.

This places less emphasis on the second part of the sentence, showing that it is less important than the first part of the sentence.

For example:

  • “The interviewer asked me if I could use graphics packages. I told her that I could use Photoshop, as well as 3D Studio Max.”

Generally, if someone wants to hire an employee with graphics package experience, they usually want to hear that they can use Photoshop.

It’s not as likely that they’ll need someone to use a high-powered 3D modeling package like 3D Studio Max, too, unless it’s that type of role. 

Using “as well as” in this way gives the interviewer the main information they are looking for in the first part of the sentence.

It adds in the less critical but still impressive information in the second part.

  • “Don’t forget to buy milk, as well as anything else you want from the store.”

Here, the important thing is to remember the milk. That’s what the person is focusing on. Then the rest of the sentence after the comma is less vital.

If both parts of the sentence are equally important, then you could choose to replace the phrase “as well as” with “and.”

You could rewrite both sentences above like that. They would both still make sense and both be grammatically correct, but the meaning would change, and both parts of each sentence would be equally important.

For example:

“The interviewer asked me if I could use graphics packages. I told her that I could use Photoshop and 3D Studio Max.”

“Don’t forget to buy milk and anything else you want from the store.”

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Comma After “As Well As”

When you’re using a comma after “as well as,” it’s the same as if you were using parentheses. The rest of the sentence must still make sense when you use parentheses, even if you remove the phrase in parentheses.

Also, just as you can’t open one bracket without using another to close it, you will need two commas for the same reason.

Here are some examples of that:

“Aunt Gilda, as well as Aunt Blanche, is going to the market today.”

“All the children in year four, as well as all the children in year five, are going to have swimming lessons.”

“My business, as well as my brother’s pizzeria, is sponsoring the local baseball team this season.”

If you took out the phrase between the two commas, the rest of these sentences would still be correct. It’s also clear that you must use the second comma to close the phrase, or each sentence will be confusing. And it might also affect what tense you use after the comma.

You can see this in the first example sentence above. If you didn’t close off the phrase in the middle of the sentence (as well as Aunt Blanche), you would have to use “are” instead of “is” because you would be saying that both women are going to the market. 

As it’s written, it’s clear that the sentence is focused on the fact that Aunt Gilda is going to the market and that the information that Aunt Blanche is going is more of an aside.

More Examples of Using Commas Before and After “As Well As”

Here are some examples of different ways to punctuate the phrase “as well as.” Some are from books, and some are just example sentences.

Book examples:

1) “It’s really best to keep your secrets when you have them, for their own good, as well as yours.” – Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

2) “Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is all a woman is fit for.” – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

3) “I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.” – Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

4) I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring.” – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

5) “With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

6) “You are my best friend as well as my lover, and I do not know which side of you I enjoy the most.” – Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

General examples:

7) Fred, as well as Joe, is going to the baseball game.

8) I’d like strawberries and strawberry sauce, as well as sprinkles, on my ice cream.

9) Sheila can speak Spanish and French, as well as Italian.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you have a better idea of when to use punctuation around the phrase “as well as.” It can be confusing but don’t worry. The most important thing is to focus on your work, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. 

Finish your first draft, and don’t worry too much about punctuation. You can always go back and fix anything like that later.

As a general rule, remember that if you’re unsure whether you need commas around “as well as” or not, just don’t use a comma at all. Most of the time, you’ll be right. And when you’re not, that’s why you have an editor.

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