Speaking and writing, however, are two different animals.
In writing, commas do not represent pauses as do they in speaking. Commas signal sentence construction; they indicate relationships between phrases within a sentence or between items within a single phrase (such as in a list). Depending on what those relationships are, the comma may not even be needed.
In the example shown in the image, the final phrases in the last sentence describe the methodology presented in the paper. The description has two elements:
- “indicating and eradicating problem root causes”
- “the root causes of complex systems failures”
We know these are the elements because of the use of the conjunction and. The adverb specifically identifies the second element as a subordinate element of the first; root causes of complex systems failures are a specific type of problem root causes.
Option #1: Remove the commas.
I can just hear someone in a conference somewhere reading this paper as the text of his or her presentation. Placing a comma to separate out items in a two-item list makes no sense grammatically. Commas are used to separate items in a list of three or more items. The commas here are not even needed. Thus, I would recommend removing them. The sentence would then read as follows:
If the paper provides no more than a brief mention of the general case of problem root causes, then the paper really isn’t about the general case at all, and the writer could provide a more effective sentence by tightening it.
Option #3: Use the comma in a grammatically correct manner.
However, if the writer were particularly attached the comma in this example sentence, he or she could use the comma to separate out the adverb specifically. The sentence would then read as follows:
Personally, I would examine the content of the paper and pursue Option #2 if it is appropriate. If it is not appropriate, and the writer insists that the focus areas in the content remain unchanged, then I recommend Option #1. Speaking and writing are two different animals, and given options I usually recommend the cleaner, tighter manner of expression. And the writer usually has options.