complex comma situations

Status
Not open for further replies.
M

mas94010

Guest
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?
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
mas94010 said:
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)
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
You could also use a semi-colon instead of a dash. :lol:
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
tdol said:
You could also use a semi-colon instead of a dash. :lol:

Shouldn't a semicolon be used to separate two independent clauses?

Regards,
RonBee

8)
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
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. :shock:
 

RonBee

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

tdol said:
Do you distinguish between a semi-colon and a dash?

Yes, I do.

tdol said:
In BE, they are used interchangeably, although the dash is also used to replace commas sometimes. We're pretty sloppy on punctuation in BE. :shock:

Interesting. As I see it, the dash and the comma perform different functions, so one does not replace the other.

Regards,
RonBee
8)
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
The dash is used here by people who aren't sure what to use. :D
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
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
:fadein: :changes: :scramble: :squarewi: :hi: :flasings:
 
J

John D

Guest
commas

Hi mas94010 :) .

Nice to see there is such a word as spraddle. :shock:

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.
 

RonBee

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

John D said:
You cannot put "and" or "because" after a comma.

Hm?

:)

8)
 
J

John D

Guest
Commas.

Hi RonBee. :D .

That is a golden rule.

One of many.

Keep smiling. Have fun.

:D .
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
With rules like that, English class must have been tough. ;-)

8)
 
J

John D

Guest
Commas

Hi Ron Bee :D ,

Not really, I was educated in the "It's ok to hit kids because they are all stupid and must have knowledge thumped into them" era.

Our teachers had to be tough in those days, we were a bunch of wrong-side-of-the-track hooligans and miscreants.

Miss Astley did have her good points though, because we were poor and could not afford nutcrackers, come Christmas she used to go all soft and crack walnuts with her eyelids for us kids.

Have fun, keep smiling.

:roll:
 
Z

zippy

Guest
Re: dash vs colon

I have a lot of trouble figuring out when to use a dash instead of a colon,
and vise-versa.
I have read several articles on the web but I am still confused. Is
there a "really good" article , with lots of examples, I can read ?
Or, better yet, is there a simple rule that tells me where
to use one over the other ?
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top