Results 1 to 8 of 8

    • Join Date: Jun 2010
    • Posts: 1
    #1

    Comma or em dash?

    What is the correct punctuation for this sentence:
    Since food-borne illness can be serious—or even fatal—it is important for people to know and practice safe food-handling behavior to help reduce the risk of getting sick from contaminated food.

    I would like to insert a comma after fatal. Would a comma be correct or should I leave in the em dash?

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Apr 2007
    • Posts: 4,146
    #2

    Re: Comma or em dash?

    Quote Originally Posted by ginny2696 View Post
    Welcome!

    What is the correct punctuation for this sentence:
    Since food-borne illness can be serious—or even fatal—it is important for people to know and practice safe food-handling behavior to help reduce the risk of getting sick from contaminated food.

    I would like to insert a comma after fatal. Would a comma be correct or should I leave in the em dash?
    I would replace both dashes with commas. It would look odd to have one dash and one comma, although it also looks odd to me with the two dashes.

    A decade or perhaps a few decades ago, one didn't see dashes where commas typically had been used. I am interested to now why this change is happening. The comma seems to do the job quite well.

  1. chester_100's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Persian
      • Home Country:
      • Iran
      • Current Location:
      • Iran

    • Join Date: Jan 2008
    • Posts: 463
    #3

    Smile Re: Comma or em dash?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    I would replace both dashes with commas. It would look odd to have one dash and one comma, although it also looks odd to me with the two dashes.
    Exactly! There should be a balance in punctuation. But two dashes are perfectly right.

    A decade or perhaps a few decades ago, one didn't see dashes where commas typically had been used. I am interested to now why this change is happening. The comma seems to do the job quite well.
    Dashes are usually used in informal texts. Still, they seem to have one special function that commas don't seem to cover: parenthetical clauses at the end of a sentence or paragraph:

    -A large number of observers acknowledge that dream life is capable of extraordinary achievements—at any rate, in certain fields ("Memory").

    It would be very strange to put a comma there.
    C
    Last edited by chester_100; 16-Jun-2010 at 02:32.

  2. chester_100's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Persian
      • Home Country:
      • Iran
      • Current Location:
      • Iran

    • Join Date: Jan 2008
    • Posts: 463
    #4

    Re: Comma or em dash?

    But I believe there's a syntactic problem there that might have attracted ginny2696's attention:
    -Since food-borne illness can be serious, it is important for people

    The punctuation in the sentence is normal: a comma separates the clauses. Now look at this:
    -Since food-borne illness can be serious—or even fatal—it is important for people.

    How can we separate the clauses now? That's why ginny2696 wants to put a comma after fatal. I have another idea:
    -Since food-borne illness can be serious (or even fatal), it is important for people.

    What do think about it?

    Good day,

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Apr 2007
    • Posts: 4,146
    #5

    Re: Comma or em dash?

    Quote Originally Posted by chester_100 View Post
    But I believe there's a syntactic problem there that might have attracted ginny2696's attention:
    -Since food-borne illness can be serious, it is important for people

    The punctuation in the sentence is normal: a comma separates the clauses. Now look at this:
    -Since food-borne illness can be serious—or even fatal—it is important for people.
    I don't see what advantage dashes have over commas.
    How can we separate the clauses now? That's why ginny2696 wants to put a comma after fatal. I have another idea:
    -Since food-borne illness can be serious (or even fatal), it is important for people.

    What do think about it? I don't like the parentheses at all, even less than the dashes.

    Good day,
    2006

  3. chester_100's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Persian
      • Home Country:
      • Iran
      • Current Location:
      • Iran

    • Join Date: Jan 2008
    • Posts: 463
    #6

    Re: Comma or em dash?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    I don't like the parentheses at all, even less than the dashes.
    Is that because of a personal preference or a technical reason?

    Out of the seven major functions of parentheses there's one that is used for explanations, supplementary facts, and examples. So that sentence can be acceptable.
    Of course, I do agree that dashes disfigure sentences, but parentheses can enhance readability. There're two other choices:

    1. Accepting the original sentence without making any changes to it.
    2. Removing the dashes. I don't find it necessary to separate that part.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Apr 2007
    • Posts: 4,146
    #7

    Re: Comma or em dash?

    Quote Originally Posted by chester_100 View Post
    Is that because of a personal preference or a technical reason? maybe both
    I don't think they are (often) used that way.

    Out of the seven major functions of parentheses there's one that is used for explanations, supplementary facts, and examples. So that sentence can be acceptable. Again, the standard way is to use commas, and I just don't see any reason to replace them with dashes.
    Of course, I do agree that dashes disfigure sentences, but parentheses can enhance readability. There're two other choices:

    1. Accepting the original sentence without making any changes to it. I think some people would do that.
    2. Removing the dashes. I don't find it necessary to separate that part.
    I definitely would put a comma after "fatal" to separate the dependent and indepenedent clauses. A comma after "serious" is not mandatory, in my opinion.
    2006

  4. chester_100's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Persian
      • Home Country:
      • Iran
      • Current Location:
      • Iran

    • Join Date: Jan 2008
    • Posts: 463
    #8

    Re: Comma or em dash?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    I definitely would put a comma after "fatal" to separate the dependent and indepenedent clauses.
    That's for sure.

    A comma after "serious" is not mandatory, in my opinion.
    That's true. That would be good only for long clauses or sentences.

    C

Similar Threads

  1. Comma after dash
    By Allen165 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 25-Aug-2009, 15:18
  2. Use of the dash
    By Allen165 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 08-Aug-2009, 14:28
  3. dash
    By kukinecka in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-Nov-2008, 19:04
  4. Dash (--) and Comma (,)
    By Kenneth in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 24-Dec-2004, 02:49
  5. dash or not?
    By Eway in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 13-Dec-2004, 11:18

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •