1. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    A comma needed with elided verbs?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lameri, Apr 11, 2011.

    In speech we do make a pause when the verb is missing, but I haven't been able to find specific guidelines in favor or against. A sentence would be (notice the comma in front of "eleven"):

    He told us about two patients: one survived seven years; the other, eleven.

    Have you come across guidelines for this?
    Thanks.
     
  2. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rather naughtily :eek:, I'm gonna change your sentence to

    He told us about two patients: one survived seven years and the other, eleven.

    because otherwise this thread might get all frothy re your deployment of the semi-colon.

    I suspect you might be able to find a guideline somewhere saying that a comma before the eleven is best practice (perhaps to the point of elevating it to a rule) but I'm also sure you can probably find dozens of instances of capable writers omitting it in this sort of scenario.

    I would instinctively put one there since it obviates the slim possibility (in this particular case) of making a reading slip.
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agreed. For what it's worth, the Oxford Style Manual says to use a comma in such cases unless the sentence is short or the meaning is clear without it.
    More than a slim chance. I think most readers are likely to think, just for a moment, "the other eleven what?" before going back to parse it the intended way.
     
  4. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Originally, I put very slim.:eek: It then occurred that not everyone would be so quick to understand than 1+1 = 2 and/or notice the propinquity of the full-stop. :)
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that pretty much all would understand it, it's just that when they get to the full stop they will have to do a double-take, which I think it's best to avoid.
     
  6. Omega14
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    Omega14 Member

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    The Penguin Guide to Punctuation describes this as a gapping comma: its function is to replace missing words that would otherwise end up being repetitive. With your sentence as the example:

    He told us about two patients: one survived seven years, the other, eleven.

    what you mean is that one survived seven years and the other survived eleven years, but then you have 'survived' and 'years' twice in the sentence. This is a perfectly acceptable use of a comma.


    Rachel
     
  7. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    :) If they quickly understand that 1+1=2 and/ or while they're reading scan ahead and note that they are quickly coming upon a full-stop then there should be no double-take. But yeah there is a chance of a slip there and I would use the comma.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    short answer: yes
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    By a strange coincidence I came to this immediately after reading the TVTropes page about the Mathematician's Answer.
     

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