Mining Commas in NM

The Santa Fe New Mexican has a reputation for left-leaning, heavily-biased reporting, but I can’t fault the commas in this article by Tom Sharpe. In his article about alleged pressure to vote for mining rights, I came across this great sentence:

Fielder, who retired last year as a history professor at New Mexico State University, is the only committee member appointed by Richardson who was reappointed by Martinez.
(http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Local%20News/cultural-properties-review-committee-Governor-steered-vote-)

This is a great example of Zen Comma Rule U: Use commas to separate non-restrictive phrases and clauses starting with who.

A non-restrictive phrase or clause renames or restates something just written. It doesn’t provide essential information to understand the main point of the sentence and can be removed without resulting in a non-grammatical sentence. Unlike a restrictive clause starting with who, a non-restrictive clause doesn’t tell us which person we’re reading about. Rather, it provides an additional description.

In the sample sentence, the clause who retired last year as a history professor at New Mexico State University doesn’t tell us which person we’re reading about. It provides additional information. It is a non-restrictive clause.

Following Rule U, it is correctly separated from the rest of the sentence with commas, one before and one after.

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