1. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    And

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by zaffy, Jan 10, 2010.

    I was taught never to put a comma after AND or BUT because these conjunctions naturally tell the reader to take a breath.
    I stuck by this rule for years but now that creative writing is my hobby, I am often corrected.

    As an instance, this is how I would write the sentence below.

    And that is what they did, enjoyed the smells and the stillness and did not talk for a bit until Lady Vanderpump asked. “When will you retire?”

    I am sure I would be corrected for this. Please can you explain why I should put commas in?
     
  2. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I am guessing you mean the section of this sentence I highlighted in bold... Should there be commas in that section, you could since you are listing something, but it would look like this: And that is what they did, enjoyed the smells, the stillness, and did not talk for a bit, until Lady Vandererpump asked, "When will you retire?"

    Personally, I avoid starting sentences with the word AND. It's an old habit I got into during college classes with professors who would have a fit if any sentence started with AND, though that was mainly in non-fiction essay writing. AND can be used in fiction as a sentence starter, but often that section of the sentence could have been rewritten into the sentence before it.

    As far as a coordinating conjuction joining two independent clauses, such as:
    (The cat licked her paw, but she couldn't remove the thorn.) In this case both sections could be seperate sentences. The cat licked her paw. She couldn't remove the thorn. However, it sounds choppy, so combining them together with a but helps smooth it out.

    In your sentence, it is a list. When you list three or more things together, you can usually drop the ands that you might say in speach and use commas with an and after the last comma for the last item in the list.

    For introductory sections of a sentence, like I have here, you would put a comma to signify the pause of the introduction before continuing on to the part of the sentence that holds the subject and the verb.

    If you're still having trouble figuring out comma use, google the term Comma Usage and you will find a plethora of websites that describe with examples the correct ways to use them.
     
  3. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Yes, I was taught not to start a sentence with ‘AND’ too, but I have managed to break away from that doctrine.

    What confuses me is - commas are there to make a sentence read more easily. In your sentence example about the cat, the placing of the comma adds no further clarity.

    The cat licked her paw (,) but she could not remove the thorn.

    I thought I did not have a problem with lists.
    Example. She pulled, pushed, thumped and bashed her way through.
    Until I realised some would put a comma after ‘thumped’.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the comma after 'thumped' is called an 'oxford comma' and is not mandatory, but often used...

    as for the cat bit, commas do go before 'but' and 'with' and other 'coordinating conjunctions' when introducing an independent clause, which is being done there..
     
  5. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Just to clarify. Have I understood?

    The cat licked her paw, but she could not remove the thorn.
    The cat licked her paw but could not remove the thorn.
     
  6. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both are correct. The comma was needed before "but" since you have 2 separate independent clauses that you're joining.
     
  7. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    I honestly don't have a problem with this. But it's purely a syslistic choice. Make it a list and you get that robotic run-on feel to it 'and that's what they did, item one, two, and three. It takes away the atmosphere (languid, peaceful, slow): 'And that is what they did (they) enjoyed the smells (and) the stillnes (and) didn't talk talf for a while until Lady V asked... Being able to vary pace in a book is a good technique to master. So just picture the scee and if a list fits, use it, if it goes against the feel of everything, don't.

    And a conjunction at the start of a clause...? If we all stuck to the rules it would be pretty boring. Keep the rule for scientic papers and play around in your prose, it's why it's called creative writing. :)
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Yup, the basic rule is to use a comma when "and" is connecting two independent clauses, but not when it compounds subjects or predicates, but at times, the comma is good in the latter cases for clarification.

    Your later example was a compound predicate, so no comma is needed.

    "Could not remove the thorn is not a sentence.

    The cat licked her paw.
    The cat could not remove the thorn.

    This is an easy way to see when a sentence contains a compound predicate. If you can apply the subject to both endings.

    The cat and dog faught, but neither won.

    When there is a compound subject and compound predicate, I often use a comma, in this case, before but.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there is a problem with that bit... there must be a comma after 'asked' and not a period...there should also be a comma after 'bit' since 'until' starts an independent clause...
     
  10. m5roberts
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    m5roberts Member

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    "Until" actually starts a prepositional phrase, not an independent clause. For it to be independent, everything from "until" on would have to be able to stand alone as a sentence.

    "Until Lady Vanderpump asked..." does not do this. But you are right on the comma after "asked" instead of a period.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ok, so it's a 'dependent' clause, not an independent one... everything after 'until' [the 'dependent marker word'] can be a sentence on its own, however... and there still should be a comma after 'bit'...
     
  12. witch wyzwurd
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    witch wyzwurd Contributing Member

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    Before being concerned with where or where not a comma should be placed, zaffy should construct a sentence that makes sense...

    And that is what they did.

    The sentence above signifies that there was a sentence before it describing either generally or specifically the same things that zaffy listed starting with the word enjoyed. Without knowing the unlisted sentence, it's hard to determine the correct punctuation needed. The second part of his sentence might just be repeated babble that could be omitted, leaving "And that is what they did" to end in a period and be a stand-alone sentence (ex.2); although, if zaffy stated they did something, I'm not sure why zaffy would want to state the obvious fact that they did it.


    (ex.1) They had fun. And that is what they did. They played board games and drank loads of tea.

    (ex.2) They played board games and drank loads of tea. And that is what they did. They played board games and drank loads of tea.
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only way you would have the phrase 'And that is what they did' is if you signify an intent for what they planned to do in the previous sentence. You can't PLAN to 'have fun', exactly (can you decide in advance what your emotion is going to be?), so that example jars with me. The phrase also loses a lot of its punch if it isn't at the end of the paragraph.

    e.g.
    They decided they were going to paint the town red. And that is what they did.

    Although personally, I would make it a run-on comment:
    They decided they were going to paint the town red--and that's what they did.

    Because, yes, short sentences starting with 'and' and 'but' are annoying unless used sparingly and well.
     
  14. witch wyzwurd
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    witch wyzwurd Contributing Member

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    madhoca, you're assuming that zaffy's previous sentence described somebody planning something. I didn't assume that.

    You're also saying that "having fun" is an emotion, when it is not. Yes, people plan to have fun everyday. If you plan to go on an ocean cruise liner, wouldn't you plan to do fun things? Maybe your vacation won't end up being fun, but you can still plan to have fun.

    Using your example:

    They decided they were going to paint the town red. And that is what they did.

    Why not:

    They painted the town red. And that is what they did.

    I agree, the sentence is really bad, but that's why I'd like to see the sentence zaffy didn't list. My example would be more proper put this way:

    They painted the town red. That is what they did.

    It's redundant, I know. But that's why I was curious to see if zaffy's was redundant too.

    If zaffy had a sentence that explained the planning of something, then I'd agree with:

    They decided they were going to paint the town red--and that's what they did.
     
  15. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    The preceding sentence is ...

    Bert brought a stop to what could have been an endless list. “Yes, probably many things smell better, but I was thinking about right now. Look, why don’t we just savour the moment?”
    And that is what they did, enjoyed the smells and the stillness and did not talk for a bit, until Lady Vanderpump asked, “When will you retire?”
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    In answer to your first point: As I said (I thought clearly, but obviously not), to use the phrase CORRECTLY a plan/decision should have been made, or it should be logical to assume a plan/decision is involved. So, OF COURSE I was assuming a plan was involved. Note that I did not say 'have fun' is an emotion--please read my post again.

    In the example given:

    They had fun. And that is what they did. = Here the 'fun' is spontaneous, there is no evidence that any thought, hope, planning etc went into this beforehand. So the phrase can't really be used meaningfully.

    Which brings me to the second point:
    They painted the town red. And that is what they did.
    Why not?
    Because it makes no sense to express yourself in this awkward way if you want to write WELL.
     
  17. witch wyzwurd
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    witch wyzwurd Contributing Member

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    Sorry Zaffy, I'll respond in a moment. Let me just clear this contention with madhoca please.

    madhoca:
    1. Zaffy's example was a fragment of his creative writing, so strict rules of writing weren't assumed by me.
    2. You can't PLAN to 'have fun', exactly (can you decide in advance what your emotion is going to be?): signifies to me, without assuming anything, that "have fun" is what you're talking about when you speak of emotion. I don't see anything else in your paragraph that would elude to anything else.
    3. They had fun. And that is what they did. = Here the 'fun' is spontaneous: It says nowhere in the sentence that the fun was spontaneous.

    There's really no point in arguing our examples anymore since Zaffy listed his unlisted sentence and that would be disrespectful to his thread.

    I'm trying to imagine the scene with this little bit of description, so bare with my example. It's probably a bit general, but you should get the idea.

    Try (w/ added embellishment):
    Bert brought a stop to what could have been an endless list. “Yes, probably many things smell better, but I was thinking about right now." Bert blew his irritation away with a sigh. "Look, why don’t we just savour the moment?”
    Lady Vanderpump smirked until the few more smells that crossed her mind faded.
    For awhile, they stayed silent, enjoying the smells and stillness, then Lady Vanderpump asked, “When will you retire?"
     
  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As you will have gathered by now, this is very much a question of style. The bit about the Oxford comma could be the start of an interesting discussion, but doesn't apply here because it's not a list of three items, it's a list of two items, one item of which itself contains a list of two items:

    And that is what they did:
    - enjoyed the smells and the stillness; and
    - did not talk for a bit until Lady Vanderpump asked, “When will you retire?”

    Not making any distinction between the first "and" and the second gives the reader a false start. The reader might think it's
    And that is what they did, enjoyed:
    - the smells and
    - the stillness and
    - did not talk for a bit until Lady Vanderpump asked, “When will you retire?”
    Only when they realise the last bit doesn't make sense do they go back and realise that the ands don't all link what they enjoyed. For that reason, I'd give the reader a hint with:
    'And that is what they did: enjoyed the smells and the stillness, and did not talk for a bit until Lady Vanderpump asked, “When will you retire?”'
     
  19. ronmatt
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    ronmatt Member

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    I was taught...never start a sentence with 'and'. Never have 'and' follow a comma.
    I was also taught ' I before E except after C. This rule no longer applies, so I've heard.

    Sometimes, I absolutely must start a sentence with 'and'. It's how I speak
    And, I believe ( and, is correct )

    My problem is; what are these for [ ] and, { }?
     
  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Beginning a sentence with "and" is not standard written English. As you have observed, it's common in spoken English (although "sentence" isn't so clear a concept in spoken English) and so it's fine in dialogue. It's also possible elsewhere in writing, but it's non-standard and so it's marked. Use with extreme caution, for particular stylistic effect. Otherwise you'll end up sounding like a parody of Hemingway (who didn't do it much, but his parodists always seem to).

    Any rule that says "Never" needs to be followed by "without good reason". The (probably apocryphal) acknowledgement "I would like to thank my parents, Mother Theresa and The Pope" almost certainly does need a comma before the "and".
    It never was universal. It applies now wherever it applied before.
    Well, I use '[' and ']' to identify an editorial insertion in a direct quote, as above. And I use '{' and '}' when programming computers.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The full mnemonic is:
    But as Tim said, it was never 100% true. There have always been a few weird exceptions. :)
     
  22. ronmatt
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    ronmatt Member

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    About 2 months ago, I heard that whomever makes these decisions, somewhere in England, said that the I before E rule, was no longer a rule.

    http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090622/FOREIGN/706219918/1002

    I don't know if it's still being debated or if some conclusion has been arrived at.
     
  23. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, the article doesn't say that it's no longer a "rule", it says that it might no longer be taught in primary schools because it never has been all that dependable.
     

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