Author Topic: Using the comma in anger  (Read 15630 times)

Offline bonitakale

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #30 on: April 08, 2009, 09:21:36 AM »
It depends.

For the UK, the normal form is to not use the serial comma  ( , and ) - However it is often done to disambiguate a sentence(it's often called the Harvard or Oxford comma because they push its use).

The clearest example I've seen is for this is -

I spoke to the boys, Tom and Sam.      (Implies Tom and Sam are the boys)

I spoke to the boys, Tom, and Sam.      (Implies Tom and Sam are not the boys)

For the US I'm not sure. I've seen it used a lot more over recent years in American writing. I know this isn't a very clear answer but, as I said at the start, I don't claim to be an expert. Perhaps some of the state-side guys can give their take on it.


US here.  It's my impression that the comma before the last item was out (at the beginning of the 20th century), then in (mid-twentieth), and is now moving out again.  Here's a quotation from the 1930's (Percy Marks, Better Themes):
"In separating the elements in a series of words, it is now customary to place a comma before the final and."

Here's one from 1985 (Webster's Standard American Style Manual) (after mentioning the use of the comma to avoid ambiguity in a series):
"Most reference books, including this one, and most other book-length works of nonfiction use the serial comma. In all other categories of publishing, according to our evidence, usage is evenly or nearly evenly divided..."

I don't have anything more recent at hand, but it does seem to be used less often now. Personally, I go along with another sentence in the Merriam-Webster: "Others feel that it is easier to include the final comma routinely rather than try to consider each sentence separately to decide whether a misreading is possible without the comma."

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Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #31 on: April 08, 2009, 07:38:00 PM »
Thanks Bonita. I think this line of discourse just goes to show that comma use isn't always simple. All I can suggest is that you try and be consistent whichever path you choose to take.
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Offline eric

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #32 on: April 08, 2009, 09:35:40 PM »
Well, Chord, this is a very fine and well-tempered essay on the comma, excellent work.  I've learned more about the differences between UK and US English -- I reside in the latter.  You may have done with the serial comma, but if one more comment is helpful, here it does seem to be entrenched.  I take as my text the Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed., mid-1990s which still rules the colonists in most respects despite a subsequent edition of CMOS. 

"Attending the conference were Farmer, Johnson, and Kendrick." ... "We have a choice of copper, silver, or gold."  -- 5.57

Although I learned both the rules SpChick refers to, this is the one that I learned is correct--and the one the English deny.  But go ahead, it's your language too.

CMOS 14 extends this rule to the slightly easier case of serial clauses:

"Harris presented the proposal to the governor, the governor discussed it with the senator, and the senator made an appointment with the president."   -- 5.31

If I may, what is the full name of the Cambridge guide you refer to?  Do they sell it in the western hemisphere?   :)  Anyway,

Cheers.

p.s.  For my dear friend Xerika, may I just add that whenever we feel the need to add punctuation to his writing or correct the dog, we use (with a weird gutteral sound):

EHHHH.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2009, 10:36:52 PM by eric »

Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #33 on: April 09, 2009, 03:22:21 AM »
Cambridge Grammar of English. Quite a good reference to English usage, including many of the differences between UK and US grammar. Unless the UK is no longer part of the western hemisphere following the G20 talks, yes they do sell it here. :)

So, there we have it, the serial comma. A lovely beast, ripe for the slaying. America is a rich hunting ground for it, while we seem to have hunted it to near extinction in the UK. It's probably down to all those silly beggars that used to go fox hunting.

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Offline Spell Chick

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #34 on: April 09, 2009, 09:38:36 AM »
I read an article about a British town or region actually trying to ban the apostrophe, but never the lovely comma.

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Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #35 on: April 09, 2009, 11:32:17 AM »
That was Birmingham. It is only nominally part of Britain and can be all yours for a quite modest fee.
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Offline Xerika

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #36 on: April 09, 2009, 08:51:00 PM »
Dear Mr (or even Ms?) Chord,

I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about your blatant denigration, outright vilification and downright snottiness with regard to the fine city of Birmingham. [Please note absence of serial comma.]

As the mayor of England's second (by only two votes, I might add) city, I cannot begin to... blah, blah and etcetera.

Yours sincerely,

etcetera, etcetera.

I'm not a Brummie myself, but I'm surprised you haven't been deluged with something like this yet. Perhaps there aren't any Brummies on MWC. If there were, perhaps you'd receive responses that were more like:

Yo, Chord. Roight, well, yo stop takin' the whassit outta Brum or the lads'll like 'ave yo. Roight? Nuff said, kiddo? Roight? Ah.

I'm going to run away now and leave you to take the flak, but not before responding to eric's scurrilous remark...

p.s.  For my dear friend Xerika, may I just add that whenever we feel the need to add punctuation to his writing or correct the dog, we use (with a weird gutteral sound):

EHHHH.


Well, EHHHH is a tad preferable to EEEWWW, or however you colonials spell the damn thing, old boy.  ;D
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Offline Conor

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #37 on: April 09, 2009, 09:11:36 PM »
Chord...

Your illumination of the comma totally blew my mind.  I only throw in a comma where it sounds good.  I know there are rules for the comma but could never keep them straight.  But I'm not really a writter any way I just play one on my spare time.  But really, thanks.  And I'm going to take Ma100's advise and store this little jewel away.

Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #38 on: April 09, 2009, 11:45:36 PM »
Mayor Xerica,
                   I was in Birmingham when the French were testing their last nuke in the Pacific. I saw several of the residents wearing T shirts that pronounced. 'Oi Frenchies. Don't goo droppin bombs in the Pacific. Birmingham is way closer and you'd do less damage!'  ;D

Anyway, do your worst. My street name has an apostrophe in it, so you'll never find me.

Mr or Ms Chord.



Conor, glad I could help. ;D
« Last Edit: April 09, 2009, 11:50:29 PM by Chord »
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Offline ma100

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #39 on: June 30, 2009, 11:23:25 AM »
Hi Chord
I wondered if you would mind adding an example about the comma use at the end of dialogue to your piece. Mainly with the use of action breaks and he/she saids etc. :-* :-* Enquiring minds wish to know. So does this dope. ::)

Ma
« Last Edit: June 30, 2009, 11:26:21 AM by ma100 »

Offline katarina66

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #40 on: December 13, 2011, 04:38:35 AM »
There is a very good book called 'Write Right', which acts as an ideal quick reference on common grammar mistakes.

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #41 on: February 12, 2012, 01:49:58 PM »
Thank you so much!!

Commas and I have never worked together very well.

Offline Dawn

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #42 on: February 13, 2012, 03:46:52 AM »
Thanks Chord. ;D
Time to take it serious and get the job done

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #43 on: August 08, 2013, 10:06:11 PM »
I'm locking this topic due to its age. Plus the fact that is a good reference on comma usage and I want it to be of aide to members, but not brought forward with new post.
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