1. mercy
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    mercy Senior Member

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    A Little Lesson in Comma Usage

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by mercy, Jan 7, 2008.

    I was having some trouble with comma placement. I took some time studying the subject and wrote this to help anyone who may need it.

    A Little Lesson in Comma Usage

    An independent clause is a complete idea. It generally contains a subject and a verb. An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence.

    A dependent clause is not a complete idea. It can not be used by itself to make a sentence.

    When you combine two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet), use a comma. When you combine an independent clause with a dependent clause, a comma is not required.

    Example: Look at these two sentences or independent clauses:

    The boy ran down the street. He stopped at the door.

    Let's combine them using the conjunction 'and':

    The boy ran down the street, and he stopped at the door. (comma require – two independent clauses)

    The boy ran down the street and stopped at the door. (comma not required – you have joined a independent clause with a dependant clause.)

    Another option is to fuse the two independent clauses using a semicolon, but it should only be used if the ideas are closely related.



    *PLEASE SEE DWSPIG2'S CORRECTIONS ON THIS POST.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A parenthetical phrase is a phrase that contains additional information that is not important to the meaning of the sentence. It is separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.
    In this case, who the man is is already understood, and his fear of crowds is additional information that is not needed to complete the main thought.

    However, a restrictive phrase specifies information that selects or qualifies the element of the sentence it connects to, and no commas are used to separate it from the rest of the sentence:
    This time the same phrase specifies which man we are talking about, so it is used as a restrictive phrase.
     
  3. Raust84
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    Raust84 New Member

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    Wouldn't a "parenthetical phrase" need to be set apart by parentheses? Wikipedia agrees with you, but that seems rather silly to me.

    Also, would a phrase set apart by em-dashes be considered parenthetical?

    For example (going off of the example that was used in Wikipedia): My father--who is only five feet tall--ate the entire bagel.
     
  4. mercy
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    mercy Senior Member

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    As the post was in reference to comma usage, I believe Cogito was focusing on the application there of. Here is a great link that explains the subject quite clearly. I have cut and pasted it's content regarding Parenthetical Phrases as well.

    obvious punctuation error

    I hope this is allowed.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Quoting an external source is allowed, provided you properly acknowledge the source. Thank you, mercy.

    Parenthetical phrase is the term, but you should not generally use parentheses to enclose it. Commas are the preferred delimiter in prose. Dashes are acceptable for emphasis, but should in used sparingly if at all.

    Parentheses are more acceptable in casual writing, but should be avoided in most prose.

    I'm not sure of the exact etymology of parenthetical, but it has to be along the lines of para (around, alongside) and thesis (main idea).
     
  6. mercy
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    mercy Senior Member

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    thanks
     
  7. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    I am DYING to hear why you would say such a thing.

    "Parenthesis" is from greek, meaning to insert in place.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    pretty close... a slightly more accurate translation would be 'place beside'...

    i have to agree that in prose, using commas or em dashes would almost always be preferable to parentheses... but i wouldn't go so far as to say they should be avoided entirely...
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I did some research, and there is no grammatical or syntactic reason not to use parentheses, particularly if the parenthetical material constitutes a complete sentence. From what I have seen, I still feel parentheses are usually a poor choice in fiction, because it signals a stronger interruption in sentence flow than a parenthetical expression set off by commas. If your sentence contains a parenthetical thought that breaks the flow to that degree, there is probably a better way to organize your thought anyway. Admittedly, that has more to do with my personal style.

    Insofar as the question that was raised about parenthetical expressions, I was wrong to say you should avoid it in most prose. It is more accurate to say that I would avoid it in most prose.

    So I humbly stand corrected.
     
  10. dwspig2
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    dwspig2 Member

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    This is in part correct. You do not use a comma here. That much is correct. The reasoning you use, however, is not correct. You don't use a comma because it would separate your subject from its second verb - boy and stopped. The second "clause" in your sentence is not a clause at all. Clauses must have both subjects and verbs.

    Example of independent clause: The boy ran down the street. This sentence can stand alone.
    Example of independent clause and subordinate clause (dependent clause): The boy ran down the road because the bullies were chasing him. The part of the sentence beginning "because" is the subordinate clause. It is a clause because it has both a verb (were chasing) and a subject (bullies). Even if the subject of the subordinate clause is the same as the independent clause, it must be repeated for there to be a true clause. e.g. The boy ran down the road because he was escaping the bullies.

    Semicolons are predominately used when conjuctions are omitted.

    Example of sentence with a conjunction: The boy ran down the street because he was escaping the bullies.
    Example sentence with a semicolon: The boy ran down the street; he was escaping the bullies.

    A semicolon allows the reader to infer what the writer was thinking. It is also somewhat stylistic in that sense. I can't understand why some writers think semicolons are bad. I personally like the second sentence for myself.

    Another use of the semicolon is when you're joining two sentences and there's some kind of introductory element in the second:

    It's been raining all day long; therefore, we can't go to town.

    The President had promised to wage a war on poverty; instead, he invaded pockets of the poor.
     
  11. mercy
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    mercy Senior Member

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    DWSPIG2

    Thank you for clearing that up for me.
    Thank you again. You are absolutely correct. What would it be considered? A phrase?

    I have read this before. I was wondering if it is a personal choice of if the semicolon is required in a case like this.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You could use a period, and make each a separate sentence. Occasionally joining related sentences with semicolons is ok, but if you find yourself doing it a lot, perhaps your sentence pairs and groups would be better off collected into paragraphs, or joined with commas and conjunctions instead:
    As a paragraph, it could consist of the two sentences in the first example, or be further expanded. The surrounding material already in place will be part of that decision.

    Disclaimer: I am not espousing any particular political position in this response.
     
  13. mercy
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    mercy Senior Member

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    Let me see if I get this...

    'Therefore' is a conjunctive adverb.

    You can not connect sentences with a comma and a conjunctive adverb, because it will create a comma splice.

    You can connect sentences with a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb, but it is not the only option?

    You can connect two sentences with a comma, coordinating conjunction followed by a conjunctive adverb.

    You can leave the two sentences separated by a period and capitalize the conjunctive adverb.
     
  14. mercy
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    mercy Senior Member

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    What are the rules about using a comma after a conjunctive adverb which comes at the beginning of a sentence.

    Then we ate dinner. (correct)
    Moreover, you misspelled this word. (correct)

    Both sentences start with a conjunctive adverb. They are both correct, but one has a comma after it, and the other doesn't. Why? Is it because one is starting a new thought connected to the former one, and one is expanding on the former thought?
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This gets a bit involved. Here' a link for a starting point of one good discussion: Conjunctive Adverbs. Follow some of the links through the discussion, and it will give you a good sense of the rules.

    Also look at this Wiki article for a concise explanation.

    I don't think it's necessary to be 100% correct on this subject, though. The rules are in place for maximum clarity; but as long as you have a good general sense of comma placement, no one is likely to be put off by a small technical error.

    The problem comes in where the punctuation discrepancies are so egregious that the flow of the narrative is disrupted.

    You can hear comma placement when a paragraph is read aloud, in the inflection shifts and pauses that occur at commas and other punctuation. If you get into the habit of listening to those changes as you read, consciously hearing your narration, punctuation placement and misplacement becomes pretty clear.

    When doing this, hear a semicolon as midway in emphasis between a comma and a period. It's weaker than a full stop, but a sharper break than a comma. Too many semicolons, and the writing sounds indecisive.
     
  16. crackpot
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    crackpot Member

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    I like long sentences, they're indigestible for asthma sufferers and workout the rat
    on the exercise wheel. Did Dicken's have long sentences? Proper mechanics is the chief
    concern for constructing a lengthy sentence without it becoming a "runaway"?
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Readability is the primary consideration. The purpose of writing is to communicate to the reader. If the reader is left scratching his or her head and rereading the sentence to parse it, then something is wrong.
     
  18. mercy
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    mercy Senior Member

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    Thanks Cogito,

    The first link you posted is very nice. I have decided to print out all my favorite pages on grammar and make my own little grammar book. For my own use that is. I know I'm such a dork. I am also including "He Said She Said..."
     
  19. dwspig2
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    I would think it has to do with how necessary the adverb is to the basic idea of the sentence. In your first sentence, the "then" is important since it tells when something happens. It would fit into a story that needs to rely on a sequence of events. In your second sentence, the "moreover" just transitions to another sentence. It relies heavily on the previous thought. The sentence could stand alone on its own without the adverb.
     
  20. snuffyb
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    snuffyb New Member

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    Beginner

    I have 50+ poems written, none published, though I have posted one(Friendship) in this forum. Based on the comments that I received :) I need to review my work for punctuation. I write for Gods glory, but would like to learn to do it right.
     
  21. mercy
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    mercy Senior Member

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    Well snuffyb, this is a great place to start. You can learn a lot in here. Post your work and get reviews, and read the writing issues threads. There is are many sites on the net that can help you. There is a list of good links in a post at the top of the grammar section. Welcome aboard.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you want help with this, i'll be glad to show you what needs punctuating and how, if you send me a couple of your best pieces... and, btw, 'gods' needs an apostrophe to make it a possessive... as is, it's a plural... ;)

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  23. crackpot
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    OK more cp's two cents...
    I've seen just commas used between conjunctive adverbs. However, I reference
    Commas: Commas vs. Semicolons in Compound Sentences - The OWL at Purdue

    "I cannot acertain if I'm an authority on this subject, that is to say, I am no english major." -should we use a semicolon before non essential element// we could possibly eliminate it and sound...

    Actually, I think this is a good question: what's proper punctuation when using i.e., exempli grati, et.al.?

    "Albeit punctuation isn't written in stone, MLA is."
    "Although, no one on this forum is being graded for MLA compliance."

    Comma Abuse is an important topic, especially when addressing writing with "conspicuously bad" mechanics, e.g., Incorrect (compound object):Jeff told me that the job was still available, and that the manager wanted to interview me.

    The aforementioned sentence contains two independent clauses; however, the relative pronoun that combines the sentence.

    Also, cases of extreme contrast:

    Incorrect (extreme contrast):She was late for class, because her alarm clock was broken. (incorrect)

    These examples are from Commas: Extended Rules for Using Commas - The OWL at Purdue

    Often, a writer can learn bad mechanics from interpreting pauses in sentences as
    needing some sort of punctuation, in my opinion. Comma abuse is equally egregious.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a comma goes after them, before the word/phrase being referred to... and it's usually separated from the sentence by parentheses or em dash/es, not by a comma, as in the example above... but there is no period after 'et' as it is a whole word, unlike 'al.' which is a shortened form of 'alia/alii'...

    i'm curious as to why you typed the commonly used 'i.e.' and 'et al.' yet spelled out 'e. g.'...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  25. dwspig2
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    dwspig2 Member

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    I think the proper procedure is to use a comma after the abbreviations for et alia and id est while omitting it it the complete word.

    "The transmission of qualities is the consummating creation of Dorian Gray—id est the materialization of two unbeknownst expressions of a verboten passion."
    versus:
    "The transmission of qualities is the consummating creation of Dorian Gray—i.d., the materialization of two unbeknownst expressions of a verboten passion."

    Furthermore, one notices that the expanded form of the abbreviation is italicized while the abbreviation is not.
     

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