Author Topic: Using the comma in anger  (Read 11099 times)

Offline ma100

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2009, 10:22:41 AM »
Yet another bit of worthwhile information Chord.
Thanks
Ma :)

Offline Spell Chick

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2009, 05:45:13 PM »
I have a question about commas used in lists.

I learned in school, back when we were still using stone tablets, the comma was not placed before the and, but or or.

However, I then read then learned the comma was to be used between the penultimate and ultimate things.

So I go to the store and buy apples, bananas, grapes, and watermelons now.
Except maybe I'm to go to the store and buy cereal, bread, potato chips and pretzels.

Does it matter? Is it geographically determined? Is the rule just a matter of being consistent?

Does that last comma belong there or not?
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Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2009, 06:35:06 PM »
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.


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Offline Spell Chick

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2009, 06:41:45 PM »
Thanks

Strunk & White say yes. I was taught no.

I see it both ways.

So I'm confused, bewildered, and bemused.

I'm so often confronted with things I don't know, never learned and need to find out.   ;D
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Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2009, 06:58:21 PM »
Perhaps we need alternate punctuation for the bemused.

I bought some apples AAARGH pears AAAARGH and bananas EEEK

Then we can use AAAARGH when we think some punctuation should appear there but we're not sure what, and EEEK (or similar) where we know the punctuation is different from the AAAARGH ones but we're still not quite sure what it should be. ;D

The Cambridge guide (UK thingy) says not to put it in. Strunk & white say do it. I reckon we should do it how we want, but just tell people which country they should read it in. ;D

There's a more serious discussion of it on wiki.   

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma

They don't make any definite statement either though so I guess we're all at sea on this one.
 


« Last Edit: April 07, 2009, 07:06:11 PM by Chord »
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Offline Xerika

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2009, 07:36:28 PM »
Chord AAARGH many thanks for your response to my earlier queries EEEK

I still seem to have a bit of an issue with the BAH run-on sentence CLOSE BAH thing even though I understand wrong punctuation EEEK Are we saying that any sentence with BAH and CLOSE BAH in it is wrong SQUIRLY SQUIRLY x 2 ;D
« Last Edit: April 07, 2009, 07:46:07 PM by Xerika »
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Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2009, 07:41:53 PM »
Regarding what one is or why it is so bad? (The run on sentence).
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Offline Xerika

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #22 on: April 07, 2009, 07:47:22 PM »
Sorry, I hit the damn button before I'd finished.
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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2009, 07:59:06 PM »
This is a fascinating post, as well as everyone's comments.  Thank you Chord for bringing this topic to our attention.  I shall re-read and try to learn something here...... ;)

Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2009, 07:59:52 PM »
LOL - Ok, let's see if I read that right.

Is any sentence with 'and' in it wrong??  

No, course not.

A run on is where there are two distinct, stand-alone sentences that are incorrectly joined.

So

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes you will see one that is stolen.   - is incorrect, a run on.

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes, you will see one that is stolen. - is a comma splice (it is poor form because it is still a sort of run on sentence)

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes and you will see one that is stolen. - is good English - the 'and' is a correct join of the two sentences into a compound.

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes; you will see one that is stolen.  - is correct.

A run on just means that you have reached the end of the sentence and carried on into another one. If you compound the sentence with another using and ; or but etc then it is fine.
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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2009, 08:00:32 PM »
Sorry, I hit the damn button before I'd finished.

 ;D ;D ;D ;D

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2009, 08:05:20 PM »
LOL - Ok, let's see if I read that right.

Is any sentence with 'and' in it wrong??  

No, course not.

A run on is where there are two distinct, stand-alone sentences that are incorrectly joined.

So

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes you will see one that is stolen.   - is incorrect, a run on.

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes, you will see one that is stolen. - is a comma splice (it is poor form because it is still a sort of run on sentence)

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes and you will see one that is stolen. - is good English - the 'and' is a correct join of the two sentences into a compound.

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes; you will see one that is stolen.  - is correct.

A run on just means that you have reached the end of the sentence and carried on into another one. If you compound the sentence with another using and ; or but etc then it is fine.


I agree....the last two sentences read much better.

A question chord....if this is dialogue in a story...do the same rules apply?   Just curious.   I don't remember ever seeing a semicolon in dialogue.    Forgive me if I'm straying off topic.  It thought the semicolon was more formal and to be used sparingly.    I will not be offended if you do not agree, however.   

Offline Chord

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2009, 08:16:51 PM »
In dialogue you represent what is being said and how it is being said. It doesn't always have to be grammatically correct (very rarely is in fact).

As to the semi-colon; it depends on the writing style. It is rarely used in modern writing, particularly American writing. Commas tend to dominate. I was using it to represent a correct mechanism for binding two sentences. My preferred way of dealing with the above situation would be

Watch a stream of traffic for ten minutes. You will see a car that is stolen.

(Yeah I changed the text a little so it makes more sense) It's usually simpler just to split it into two sentences than complicate things by jamming them together.
With a fat friend there is no such thing as a see-saw, only catapults.

Offline Xerika

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #28 on: April 07, 2009, 08:22:46 PM »
Thank you, Chord. I can now rest easy in the knowledge that I wasn't going completely mad.

By the way, I have to agree that your example of the serial comma earlier is also the clearest I've ever seen.

Thanks for spending the time on all this. Much appreciated by more than just a few, I'm sure.  ;D
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Chaucer

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Re: Using the comma in anger
« Reply #29 on: April 07, 2009, 08:41:01 PM »
Thanks Chord........very clear now.