A Question of Commas

Status
Not open for further replies.

hopechest

Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
I’ve 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 I’m 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?

* “There’s something she’s 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 she’d realized the injustice she’d 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.
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Commentary.

hopechest said:
* 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.)

hopechest said:
* “There’s something she’s 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.)

hopechest said:
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 she’d realized the injustice she’d 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.

hopechest said:
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!

:hi:
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
I've read The Elements of Style, and it is a good guide to English usage.

:)
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
"Mind the Stop" by GV Carey is a good little book on punctuation. ;-)
 
D

Domaren

Guest
* 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.
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Domaren said:
* 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?

:)
 
D

Domaren

Guest
RonBee said:
Domaren said:
* 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.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top