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    #1

    Comma Logic Fallacies

    Why do different authorities on the English language disagree about the palcement--or logic, for that matter--of commas within sentences?
    How are genuine, concientious persons meant to self-teach about 'correct usage', for example, when comtemplating whether to include 'The Oxford Comma', or whether to break long compound predicates with commas?
    * Here's an example sentence which explores that second point: "A policy is a statement of intent, and is implemented as a procedure or protocol."
    * When costructing this sentence, its obvious that the writer felt that the insertion of the comma is natural. Indeed, it marks an obvious intonation queue, allowing the reader to parse the sentence better. But... It's also a blatant grammatical error, right? By grammatical ruling, the comma shouldn't ever function to break compound predicates, or sentences which appear to have an ellipted subject in the second 'clause'.*****
    The comma functions as though the second verb phrase, 'is implemented', contains its own subject, but it doesn't: the sentence has one written subject, 'A policy', and two verb phrases. Why are eminent writers breaking this rule everywhere I look?
    Can anyone on this forum offer up some advice, particularly on that second expanded point?
    Why is there inconsitencies in comma rules still reigning through the language?

    Thanks in advance for anyone's input.

    *

  1. Piscean's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Comma Logic Fallacies

    There is no simple answer to this. There are cases in which there is general agreement - for example with defining and non-defining clauses, but very often there is relatively free choice.If you are writing for publication, your publisher's editors will have their own style guide, and will edit your work accordingly. Apart from that, one simply has to use one's own judgement, based on what one has been taught at school and on one's own experience of reading what native speakers have written.

    The good news is that most speakers of British English do not get too concerned about whether or not people use the Oxford comma, or whether or not a comma between two independent clauses is a virtue or a sin.

    If you are writing for an American English readership, then it might be a good idea to obtain a respected style guide. Barb or one of the other Americans here can probably recommend a good one.

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    #3

    Re: Comma Logic Fallacies

    The Oxford comma is mainly an issue for newspapers, which routinely remove them in favor of compactness. I (unintentionally) laid a trap for an editor by using an Oxford comma after the word "Oxford." The editor dutifully removed it, along with the Oxford semicolon which also appeared in my sentence.

    Which of the following do you think is clearer?

    As published:
    She had several lengthy sojourns in Cambridge, Oxford and London, England, Tuebingen, Germany and Florence, Italy.
    As written:
    She had several lengthy sojourns in Cambridge, Oxford, and London, England; Tuebingen, Germany; and Florence, Italy.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #4

    Re: Comma Logic Fallacies

    Yeh, that first version (the one edited for publication) is verging on stupidty. Your original definitely trumps it for clarity.

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    #5

    Re: Comma Logic Fallacies

    What about the second part of my question, anyone? What is the concensus about splitting compound predicates with commas? It's 'grammatically wrong', and yet a multitude of writers tend to ignore the rule--either because the comma sounds 'natural' after having completed the first verb phrase or because they haven't taught themselves traditional grammar (or punctuation) rules.
    An example: "Jane walked ferociously to the store last Wednesday morning, and laid claim to her packet of digestive biscuits."
    Again--as said in introductory thread--if you read that sentence aloud, the comma sounds natural in its current position, as it allows the reader to guage the correct sentence intonation. But grammaticlly, it's wrong! English Authorites condemn the practise.

    Somebody help! :)

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    #6

    Re: Comma Logic Fallacies

    Most speakers of BrE simply do not worry too much about that sort of thing. Honestly!

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    #7

    Re: Comma Logic Fallacies

    Re: Comma Logic Fallacies

    This seems obvious. And actually it is. The written sentence is not only clearer, it is also correct and not-confusing, as is the first ('published') sentence.
    It is my experience, though, that most newspaper editors tend to a correct use of the comma and semicolon rules. Fortunately!
    But then again, this is in the US, and in Britain things could be slightly different.


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    #8

    Re: Comma Logic Fallacies

    I agree with you that the example you gave should not have a comma.

    The spread of English as a common language is a social/political phenomenon, not a practical or logical one! English has many instances like this where rules are rather subjective. The person who wrote that sentence may be an expert on policy, but not an expert on English usage. Don't let it bother you.

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