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  1. #1
    mas94010 Guest

    Default complex comma situations

    Can you please explain to me using this sentence as an example the rule the commas are following:
    "We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhoutte in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door." (taken from a grammar book)
    The part that doesn't make sense to me is what justifies the use of the first and last comma? There seems to be to me such a jump in thought from the "tableau" to "Miss Emily" and then from "the horsewhip" to "the two of them." What is the comma rule being used here and how could I use this rule in my writing?
    I get lost in the above sentence by the time I get to the end of it, so that I have to go back and reread it. Does this mean I shouldn't try to write like this and that only authors can get away with this type of style?

  2. #2
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Default Re: complex comma situations

    Quote Originally Posted by mas94010
    Can you please explain to me using this sentence as an example the rule the commas are following:
    "We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhoutte in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door." (taken from a grammar book)
    The part that doesn't make sense to me is what justifies the use of the first and last comma? There seems to be to me such a jump in thought from the "tableau" to "Miss Emily" and then from "the horsewhip" to "the two of them." What is the comma rule being used here and how could I use this rule in my writing?

    I get lost in the above sentence by the time I get to the end of it, so that I have to go back and reread it. Does this mean I shouldn't try to write like this and that only authors can get away with this type of style?
    I would use a dash instead of the first comma. That would indicate that the rest of the sentence describes the tableau. The comma after horsewhip separates two phrases. Thus, it would be: "We had long thought of them as a tableau -- Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhoutte in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door."

    If a sentence lacks clarity, rewrite it until it is understandable. There is no excuse for anybody not to follow that rule--especially writers.

    Regards,
    RonBee

    8)

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    You could also use a semi-colon instead of a dash.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    You could also use a semi-colon instead of a dash.
    Shouldn't a semicolon be used to separate two independent clauses?

    Regards,
    RonBee

    8)

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Do you distinguish between a semi-colon and a dash? In BE, they are used interchangeably, although the dash is also used to replace commas sometimes. We're pretty sloppy on punctuation in BE.

  6. #6
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Default Punctuation

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Do you distinguish between a semi-colon and a dash?
    Yes, I do.

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    In BE, they are used interchangeably, although the dash is also used to replace commas sometimes. We're pretty sloppy on punctuation in BE.
    Interesting. As I see it, the dash and the comma perform different functions, so one does not replace the other.

    Regards,
    RonBee
    8)

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    The dash is used here by people who aren't sure what to use. :D

  8. #8
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    A lot of people use commas that way here--sprinkling them liberally through sentences just in case they might be needed in some of those places. :D

  9. #9
    John D Guest

    Default commas

    Hi mas94010 :) .

    Nice to see there is such a word as spraddle.

    Not nice to see experts mis-spelling silhouette.

    A few comma rules:-

    You cannot put "and" or "because" after a comma. You must find another way of writing the phrase or sentence to overcome this. Miss Astley 1959.
    Failure to comply:- Two jabs in the left shoulder with a sharp pencil.

    Commas were invented because people were fainting from lack of oxygen whilst orating Shakespeare. Miss Astley 1959.

    If you cannot write a sentence using two commas or less then it should be split into more sentences. Miss Astley 1959.
    Failure to comply:- One jab in left shoulder with a sharp pencil.

    Commas are there to let people pause for a short breath, if you are reading something you have written and you find need a longer breath, use a semi colon. If you need to pause much longer, use full stop. Colons are for writers who cannot compose sentences properly. Miss Astley 1959

    :wink: Keep smiling, have fun.

  10. #10
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Default Re: commas

    Quote Originally Posted by John D
    You cannot put "and" or "because" after a comma.
    Hm?

    :)

    8)

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