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    #1

    A Question of Commas

    Ive read over articles from:
    - 11 Rules for Comma Usage
    - Writing 911
    - Online English Grammar
    - Guide to Grammar and Writing
    - Elements of Style

    But when applying them there are cases where Im uncertain, so here are some examples that I'm mulling over:

    * When Jacob chewed on his bottom lip, he was nervous.
    Is that comma necessary?

    * Theres something shes leaving out of this, Jacob thought as he observed her manipulation of Sean.
    * Life, however, decided to intrude once more upon his private sanctity as he was hit with a particularly salty gust of air.
    Is a comma needed before as?

    Identifying parenthetical elements is tricky for me. Take a look at the following and let me know if they are correct.
    * It was only now, with the passing of so many endless seconds, that shed realized the injustice shed done to them both.
    * In any case, you lost your balance, and you hit your head on the fertilizer box right in front of you.
    * Finally, the bird flew into the house, dropping the scroll in her hands, then promptly seated himself on the kitchen table.
    * Now, as she stood there in all her brilliance, he felt ashamed at himself.
    In general, I think I tend to overuse commas, so please make any corrections you see fit.

    Thank you in advance for any help.

  1. RonBee's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: A Question of Commas

    Commentary.

    Quote Originally Posted by hopechest
    * When Jacob chewed on his bottom lip, he was nervous.
    Is that comma necessary?
    I had a good argument with myself over this one. :wink:

    If I was proofreading your writing I almost certainly would not mark that comma for deletion, for it its presence does not violate any grammar rule, as it follows a dependent clause. However, if I was doing a critique I might mention that it is unnecessary, as that clause is undoubtedly necessary for the sense of the sentence. Also, when speaking that sentence there would be no discernable pause. It is my opinion that the comma is not necessary but that its presence causes no problems.

    (I hope I am making sense. It is early, and I haven't had my first cup of coffee yet.)

    Quote Originally Posted by hopechest
    * Theres something shes leaving out of this, Jacob thought as he observed her manipulation of Sean.
    * Life, however, decided to intrude once more upon his private sanctity as he was hit with a particularly salty gust of air.
    Is a comma needed before as?
    No, it is not. You don't need a comma before as unless as begins an explanatory clause. (In this case the explanatory clause is really the first one.)

    Quote Originally Posted by hopechest
    Identifying parenthetical elements is tricky for me. Take a look at the following and let me know if they are correct.
    * It was only now, with the passing of so many endless seconds, that shed realized the injustice shed done to them both.
    * In any case, you lost your balance, and you hit your head on the fertilizer box right in front of you.
    * Finally, the bird flew into the house, dropping the scroll in her hands, then promptly seated himself on the kitchen table.
    * Now, as she stood there in all her brilliance, he felt ashamed at himself.
    They are all good. By the way, one thing to remember about parenthetical expressions is that if you use one comma use them both. That is, use both or neither. To use one and not the other might be confusing.

    Quote Originally Posted by hopechest
    In general, I think I tend to overuse commas, so please make any corrections you see fit.
    It looks to me like you are doing fine. A good "rule" to remember is when in doubt leave it out. (That might not work well in practice, but at least it rhymes.)

    Feel free to post a sample of your writing (a paragraph or two or three or four) in the Poetry and Writing forum. (It is, of course, part of the bigger forum. On most forums it would be called a folder.)

    Welcome aboard!


  2. RonBee's Avatar
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    #3
    :D

  3. RonBee's Avatar
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    #4
    I've read The Elements of Style, and it is a good guide to English usage.

    :)

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    #5
    "Mind the Stop" by GV Carey is a good little book on punctuation.

  4. Domaren
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    #6

    Re: A Question of Commas

    * In any case, you lost your balance, and you hit your head on the fertilizer box right in front of you.

    The second comma in the above, I would humbly suggest, is altogether unnecessary. The introductory phrase "in any case" is rightly followed by a comma. "You lost your balance", however, is not a paranthetical expression within the sentence. It is key to the contents of the sentence. "In any case and you hit your head...." just doesn't work!

    If the second comma is there to separate the clauses as a list, it is still incorrectly used. The "and" should not generally be preceeded by a comma, only replaced by a comma in lists of three items or more, save for the final remaining "and". i.e. "long and thin and bright" becomes "long, thin and bright".

    In addition, the author would do well to remove the redundant "you" that preceeds "hit". Three "yous" in a sentence is inelegant at best. The sentence should read as follows:

    * In any case, you lost your balance and hit your head on the fertilizer box right in front of you.

  5. RonBee's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: A Question of Commas

    Quote Originally Posted by Domaren
    * In any case, you lost your balance, and you hit your head on the fertilizer box right in front of you.

    The second comma in the above, I would humbly suggest, is altogether unnecessary. The introductory phrase "in any case" is rightly followed by a comma. "You lost your balance", however, is not a paranthetical expression within the sentence. It is key to the contents of the sentence. "In any case and you hit your head...." just doesn't work!

    If the second comma is there to separate the clauses as a list, it is still incorrectly used. The "and" should not generally be preceeded by a comma, only replaced by a comma in lists of three items or more, save for the final remaining "and". i.e. "long and thin and bright" becomes "long, thin and bright".

    In addition, the author would do well to remove the redundant "you" that preceeds "hit". Three "yous" in a sentence is inelegant at best. The sentence should read as follows:

    * In any case, you lost your balance and hit your head on the fertilizer box right in front of you.
    The original sentence is punctuated appropriately, but the revision is perhaps an improvement.

    Did you say "and" shouldn't be preceded by a comma? What about:
    • Mary detested John, and she also detested Bob.


    Eh?

    :)

  6. Domaren
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    #8

    Re: A Question of Commas

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    Quote Originally Posted by Domaren
    * In any case, you lost your balance, and you hit your head on the fertilizer box right in front of you.

    The second comma in the above, I would humbly suggest, is altogether unnecessary. The introductory phrase "in any case" is rightly followed by a comma. "You lost your balance", however, is not a parenthetical expression within the sentence. It is key to the contents of the sentence. "In any case and you hit your head...." just doesn't work!

    If the second comma is there to separate the clauses as a list, it is still incorrectly used. The "and" should not generally be preceded by a comma, only replaced by a comma in lists of three items or more, save for the final remaining "and". i.e. "long and thin and bright" becomes "long, thin and bright".

    In addition, the author would do well to remove the redundant "you" that precedes "hit". Three "yous" in a sentence is inelegant at best. The sentence should read as follows:

    * In any case, you lost your balance and hit your head on the fertilizer box right in front of you.
    The original sentence is punctuated appropriately, but the revision is perhaps an improvement.

    Did you say "and" shouldn't be preceded by a comma? What about:
    • Mary detested John, and she also detested Bob.


    Eh?

    :)
    Thank you for the comments. I did not say that "and" shouldn't be preceded by a comma. I said that "and" should not "generally" be preceded by a comma. I stand by this. The only instances in which and should be preceded by a comma are those in which the comma's absence leads to ambiguity. For example:

    1. "I bought some fish and chips and sausages"

    2. "I bought some fish and chips, and sausages"

    In this sentence, I mean that I bought some fish and chips as one dish. the sausages were entirely separate from the fish and chips. Example one does not make this clear, whereas example two fixes the problem with a comma.

    I see no such ambiguity in your example.

    "Mary detested John, and she also detested Bob." is no clearer than "Mary detested John and she also detested Bob."

    The comma adds nothing to the sentence. It is therefore redundant and should preferably be left out of the sentence.

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