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Question

What's the source where I can find a complete list of all currently valid and deprecated comma rules for the German language?

By "deprecated" I mean after the German Orthographic Conference of 1901 and before the German orthography reform of 1996.

Context

I do review a lot of documents at work and see tons of comma mistakes.

I'd like to have an authoritative source which I can point to and say: "Look,

  • this sentence has a mistake here (the mistake),
  • it requires a comma there (the correction),
  • this is the comma rules that applies (rule from an authoritative source)
  • and here is an example to illustrate it (example)."

My findings so far

First, I turned to Kommaregeln on Wikipedia, but the article doesn't contain all the rules. Also, it doesn't contain the ones which were deprecated with the Rechtschreibereform of 1996.

Then, I looked at Duden which used to be considered to be the authoritative source for German language questions (don't know whether it stil is). I prefer the Duden to the Wikipedia article because every rule has a number which one can point to. For example:

Regel 104: Wenn der Beisatz Teil des Namens ist, steht kein Komma.

What I am still missing is a list of deprecated rules. For example, there used to be a rule that there is a comma before "und", if the subject of the second sentence is different from the one of the first sentence. The new rule is that the comma is optional.

Bislang galt es, vor den Konjunktionen und bzw. oder ein Komma zu setzen, wenn es sich um zwei gleichberechtigte Hauptsätze handelt. Diese Regel ist zwar nicht allzu schwierig, aber zeitraubend. Denn meistens musste man den Satz zweimal lesen, um die Hauptsätze überhaupt zu erkennen. Mit der neuen Reform entfällt dies. Source: Akademie.de.

Finally, there are numerous other collections of the German comma rules, such as the one on Akademie.de, but I wouldn't consider them to be authoritative. It's hard for me to evaluate the correctness of those sources.

2
  • You can get the current official spelling rules (including comma rules) on the Rat für Rechtschreibung’s homepage. This is as official as you can possibly get.

  • You should be able to get the first version of these rules from 1996 as well, if you are interested in what was valid from 1996 to 2006. Wikipedia has a list of these changes, which I would consider reliable.

  • The offical rules from 1901 (available here) did not contain any comma rules (source).

  • In between the Duden took charge, which meant rules that slightly changed from time to time. For example the three-letter rule (for words like Schifffahrt) became more and more complicated over time. I do not know to which extent the comma rules were changed.

To obtain a list that is most likely complete, I suggest to acquire the rules from 2006 and 1996, the latest pre-reform Duden and an old Duden. Then compare the two Dudens and see whether there are any changes. If there are none, you are done. If there are, you would have to track them down.

There might also be some official documents around that list the changes of the spelling reform and might ease the comparison, but they are unlikely to contain what changed between 1901 and 1996. The same goes for the list of changes contained in the first post-reform Dudens. Also be careful with any such list from another source as there has been a lot of misinformation about the changes by the reform (mostly from incompetent journalists). For example many people would incorrectly state that Pappplakat was incorrect just before the reform.

Another difficulty in getting a list of rules that changed with the reform (in contrast to lists of words that changed) is that the rules were not only changed but also restructured and simplified.

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