Correlative conjunctions offer a choice:
- “either A … or B”
- “neither C … nor D”
- “both E … and F”
- “whether G … or H”
- “not [only] J … but [also] K”
Despite common usage, “nor” follows “neither.” “Or” pairs with “either.”
When using correlative pairs in a single clause, no comma comes after the first choice.
- Whether it’s Tina’s birthday or Jeff and Jessica have an anniversary, we need to have a party with a treasure hunt.
- Either Micah or Colin intends to call when it’s time to begin the treasure hunt.
- Neither Cara nor Elizabeth will know what to do.
- Both Micah and Colin can give you good instructions.
- Whether it snows or rains, you must follow the directions given.
- Not only the weather but also the temperature will have an impact on the results.
- You will not only find the treasure but also solve the mystery.
- Then you will be able to either write a book or film a documentary.
- You will not need to hire someone to either write the book or film the documentary.
- If you write the book, you should be able to either publish it yourself or find a traditional publisher.
- The treasure you find will neither make you rich nor put your name in the history books.
- You will find that history can both ignore you and make you disappear.
- You will wonder why you feel not only lost but also hungry.
If a negative (“no,” “not,” “never,” etc.) precedes what would be a “neither … nor” choice, use “either … or” to avoid a double negative.
- No one in the class could either write a complete sentence or use appropriate punctuation.
- For that reason, they could never compose either a romance novel or a historical piece.
- They could not learn either the rules for commas or the proper use of quotation marks.
When using “not (only) … but (also)” to combine two two choices, a comma may separate them for emphasis or for clarity.
- Not only did the students struggle with grammar, but the teacher also needed to learn the rules.