1. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Another comma question: Rambling

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lostinwebspace, Dec 13, 2011.

    I feel stupid asking this because I think I already know the answer. Should I place commas in the following? I don't want the pauses implied with commas, and I want the words to come off in one "breath." If a character is panicking or in extreme denial, would it be okay to write "No no no no no no no!" or "Wait wait wait!" or some similar construction without commas separating the nos? Should I add dashes? "No-no-no-no-no!" Or should I just go with the convention and stick commas in.

    I'll take this one step further. Some beta readers haven't been tripped up by this. Still, I don't want to (to half-coin a ridiculous metaphor) put all my eggs in my beta readers. , I'm really, really iffy on it. To show panic, high tension, or a rushed feeling, is it okay to omit commas here? I only do this with simple sentences, things that are short and hard to confuse. I wouldn't try this trick with elements that are more than four or five easily grouped words.

    "He bolted to the kitchen grabbed a knife dashed out confronted the thief."

    Each element in the sentence is short and can be taken in two- or three-word chunks, but I just don't trust the lack of punctuation. Still, I don't want to break up the sentence with commas to add pauses or even periods. I want a rambling feeling here, but I also don't want this at the expense of clarity or at the risk of the reader chucking the book. I could add "and" between each element, but I want to know my options.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in the first instance, em dashes are ok...

    in the second, that would make no sense at all and does not do what you wanted it to... it needs commas after 'kitchen' and 'knife'... and an 'and' before the last action, imo...
     
  3. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    According to CMOS, you do not place commas in repeated words like, "No no no!" Nothing is required to separate them. I'm sure there are exceptions, and if you wanted to, you could.

    I agree with Maia on the second sentence. I don't think commas and the inclusion of "and" will slow it down, but without those things, it may slow your reader down and/or confuse them. A suggestion you might use is choppiness and full stops, but that may slow it down even more than you intended (i.e., "He bolted to the kitchen. Grabbed a knife. Dashed out. Confronted the thief.") and looks rather clunky here.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "He bolted to the kitchen and grabbed a knife and dashed out and confronted the thief."

    To me, this version reads faster than one with commas. I agree with mamma that you NEED commas in the version you posted, but I think it reads slower than using "and" between the elements. And yes, using "and" in all those places makes it look like a run-on sentence, but I think that's okay in this instance. You want to convey a breathless sense of speed, and I think it works.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    doesn't read that way to me... the 'and's negate speed, imo, whereas the commas heighten it...

    and CMS or not, leaving all those 'no's in a row with no marks doesn't read well at all...
     
  6. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I think it reads well enough. It appears too clunky with marks, so it may just be the matter of picking the lesser of two evils.
     
  7. james crofoot
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    james crofoot Member

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    Really, the dashes in the first sentence are fine in my opinion, but you need the commas and 'and' in the second, without them the reader is going to be confused and will probably have to analyze the sentence to closely for any speed or urgency.

    There is such a thing as poetic license, however use it sparingly. People are taught a certain way and change is slow.:D
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    All of those are ok. The speaker is not constructing tidy sentences, so don't expect tidy punctuation to work. It's a stylistic choice, and if you and your beta readers are happy with the original then I suggest you stick with it until somebody offers you money if you change it.
    That's more problematic. To me it conveys carelessness, not speed. Short, choppy sentences and fragments might actually convey speed better, even though you might expect the stops to slow things down. Long sentences tend to slow things down.
    He bolted to the kitchen. Grabbed a knife. Dashed out. Confronted the thief.​
     
  9. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Thanks, everyone, for the help. I have a follow-up question:

    If I take this one step further, instead of repeating just one word, can I use the same construction to repeat two words: "oh my," "oh no," etc.? "Oh no, oh no, oh no" or "oh no oh no oh no"? Is this too untidy or is this acceptable? Or should I divide each word with a comma or a dash? "oh, my, oh, my, oh, my" or "oh-my-oh-my-oh-my"?
     
  10. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Sure, why not? Personally, I'd either go punctuation-less (i.e., "Oh no oh no oh no!") or with commas between every two words (i.e., "Oh my, oh my, oh my!") or just repeat one of the two words (i.e., "Oh no no no!" or "Oh my my my!"). Too much punctuation makes it an eyesore ("oh, my, oh, my, oh, my"), imo.
     

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