1. AuthoressM
    Offline

    AuthoressM Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0

    Comma before 'and'

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AuthoressM, Jun 13, 2008.

    Hi, I'm new .:-D. I really should post some kind of introduction where it's proper, but this really is my biggest concern right now.

    I'm having a colossal problem with a certain aspect of editing - this silly comma before 'and.'

    I'm not talking about if it's in a list, like "I bought apples, juice, and eggs." That's fine. But in sentences like this:

    Kai spit a bit of tea out of her mouth and Noma almost choked on a piece of buttered bread.

    Someone who is helping edit a story of mine explained to me that a comma is needed before 'and' because this sentence is comprised of two independent clauses. Okay, fine. Live and learn, right? (this isn't the sentence her and I discussed - this is one she missed, but fits the point I'm making.)

    Then, she also insisted sentences like these need a comma before 'and' as well:

    The blonde took a few steps into the room silently, and placed the neckpiece down on the table.

    That's not two independent clauses. However, she explained that 'the blonde' is implied in the second part, as in "The blonde placed..." An easier equivalent would be, "She took a few steps into the room silently, and placed the neckpiece down." A 'she' is evidently implied before 'placed,' making it two independent clauses. (This might be a horrible way of explaining it, but it's how I understood it.)

    Okay, again. Live and learn.

    However, I had been waiting for her to e-mail me back some answers on some edits and I had figured I'd look over what has already been edited of the story - just to be thorough.

    I found a great deal of instances where there were two independent clauses connected by an 'and' where she didn't direct me to put a comma before it. And there were even more of that 'implied' stuff I just explained.

    So what's right and what isn't?

    I did a little research and it seems that if there are two independent clauses, you need the comma before the 'and.' (She tied her pink shoes, and he closed the tan door.) Although, it certainly makes the sentence look cumbersome, no? And it's certainly a rule I have never encountered before.

    However, that 'implied' thing. I found no examples of that anywhere.

    I finally did discuss it with her, the person helping me edit one of my stories, and it really didn't prove to help my understanding - especially with that 'implied' stuff.

    When should there be a comma before the 'and'? Two independent clauses? The 'implied' thing? What?

    You see, I'm doing extensive editing on a story of mine, if you didn't get that idea by now .:-D., and there are a lot of sentences containing, or that might contain, this 'and' instance/problem. And I don't understand if a comma should be placed in them or not. If I posted a whole bunch of sentences on this thread, could you all help me fix them? Or is that no good here? Either way, I really need help with this comma before the 'and' rule. So confusing!
     
  2. LibbyAnn
    Offline

    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Messages:
    558
    Likes Received:
    6
    I have minor in writing and have taken a bunch of grammar classes. I'm positive that if they're both independent clauses you DO need the comma. I'm going to have to do some more research about the implied thing...I don't really remember reading that anywhere. In the example you provided, I probably wouldn't put the comma there...I don't think it's necessary.

    I'll email my old grammar professor and get back to you, though!
     
  3. InkDancer
    Offline

    InkDancer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2008
    Messages:
    116
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Sayville, NY
    I'm a comma hog myself. One of my first steps of editing is to go in and remove all the extraneous commas I used.

    The general "correct" rule is to use a comma to separate independent clauses, and no comma between dependent ones. The sentence about the blonde, in my opinion, really shouldn't have that comma. It's not as much that the subject "she" is implied, but that both predicates share the same subject in a coordinated fashion. Think about this one:

    The blonde took a few steps into the room silently, looked around, and placed the neckpiece down on the table.

    There the commas are inserted because that's what you do with a list of three or more items. A list of just two items usually doesn't get the comma.

    However, if you're writing fiction, you use your commas in a way that works for what you're doing. Sometimes in prose, it's okay to ignore a rule of grammar if it serves a purpose and doesn't distract the reader from what you're trying to get across. Commas were invented to indicate a pause in speech, and the rules regarding their placement come from rules regarding how people should pause their speech when using good diction. Read a story from 300 years ago and you'll see much different comma placement than you will today.
     
  4. Kelly Ishii
    Offline

    Kelly Ishii New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    1
    Other than the grammar rules involved with commas, as it's been said, they act as dramatic pauses - not unlike hyphens, semicolons, colons, and parentheses.

    I'd say it's best to determine the pace of what you're writing. If it's fast-paced, commas will hinder the effect. If it's dramatic, commas help keep us in a sensuous meter.

    Poetry has really helped me, personally, realize the effect a simple pause can have. (This may sound silly, but...) Haikus helped me realize the effect to a greater extent. Take this example from Basho:

    Faceless bones scattered in the field as wind cuts my flesh.

    Not that bad, but if told with the rules of 'keiji' and 'on' (haiku meter), then it becomes:

    Faceless - bones
    scattered in the field,
    winds cut my flesh.

    The second example, as you can see, has changed the meaning and effect of the first dramatically - no pun intended.

    This all probably seems like a stretch to apply such an extreme example to contemporary writing, but just take into consideration how the simple pause can effect what you're writing and become not a mere grammatical device, but a storytelling tool, as well.

    Sorry for the length.

    -Kelly Ishii
     
  5. LibbyAnn
    Offline

    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Messages:
    558
    Likes Received:
    6
    Grammar professor (and god) just got back to me. She says that no, you do not need a comma in a sentence like the one you gave an example of where the subject is implied.
     
  6. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    in fiction, comma usage is more a styling option for the writer, than a rigid set of rules that must be followed... you can do whatever works for you and your writing... just keep in mind the fact that your publisher [if you're lucky/good enough to get one] will have their own styling editor, who may do things differently, in the finished product...

    i've read books by best-selling authors, that have next to no commas and i've read some that are peppered with 'em... in many cases, i may have used them differently, had i written the book...
     
  7. Kylo
    Offline

    Kylo Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    Commas give me such a headache to work with. It's hard to tell when you're using to much, I know. My advice: just go crazy with them, and then have someone in the know review your work, like an English teacher, or a teacher in whatever language you're writing in, assuming that language even uses commas or some type of comma equivalent. But then again, if you're writing in English, but using, say, Japanese commas, you might have to place them in such a way that they magnetize themselves to the grammatical core of commas and apostrophes. This in union with the Commatic Lift Theorem would res--*EXPLODES!!!!*
     
  8. LibbyAnn
    Offline

    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Messages:
    558
    Likes Received:
    6
    Hmm...I disagree with this. There are rules for commas. You shouldn't just go crazy with them! Yes, they can be subjective in novels, but there are still rules. I suggest picking up a grammar handbook and educating yourself so you don't kill poor English teacher's eyes :D (I should know - I'm an education student who has read MANY papers in her day)
     
  9. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    There is such a thing as adding commas where they should not go, and leaving them out where they are necessary, such as where it is prescribed for separating a dialogue tag from the dialogue text.

    There are also instances where the presence or absence of a comma alters the sentences meaning to some degree. An example would be a phrase that could either be parenthetical (nonessential) or selective (essential).

    But there are certainly uses of commas that are called for or recommended against by foirmal rules, but that only the most anal retentive will argue about in a novel. If it falls at a natural breath point, and doesn't make the sentence sound too choppy, then don't panic. It will probably be ok.

    But don't quote me on that if I point out a comma error in a review. :)

    One suggestion: Read the passage out loud, in a leisurely manner. Listen to the inflection points, and the breath points. See if they correspond to the punctuation. This is not a substitute for a good grammar and punctuation guide, but it will still catch a lot of punctuation flaws.
     
  10. Kylo
    Offline

    Kylo Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, we must all agree to disagree. But I must say, handbooks don't cover all situations. If you want a more serious opinion from me, I say just follow your instincts and hope your commas prove you'll survive long.... Sorry, but that's about as serious as I can get, unless I'm angry.

    As for killing English teacher's eyes, I don't think that's possible. Considering the crap they make you read in class, and I've been through a lot of useless and utterly hateable stories, there's nothing so horrible that they would go blind from reading it. Seriously, after Cold Equations, The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, and various other depressing stories that make emos look happy, I doubt even the mighty /b/ could come up with something worse. [/offtopic]
     
  11. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    But you don't want your book to be the final poke that tips the teacher over to gibbering insanity, do you?

    :)
     
  12. AuthoressM
    Offline

    AuthoressM Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you all for all your help!

    I can certainly see that it's needed if the sentence contains two independent clauses. I'm so glad that the 'implied' stuff isn't necessary. I was discussing this more with the person who is helping me edit, and the one thing she did say was this:

    With a sentence like this: The blonde straightened up and returned to her previous state of silence and indifference.

    You have a continuation of the action. She's almost simultaneously straightening and returning. I don't know how better to explain this.

    ----

    Therefore, she was saying that in that sentence, a comma was not needed before the 'and', but still stands by some instances with the 'implied' thing. English grammar is really a pain .>_<.

    Thank you all so much! If I have trouble with a particular sentence that involves this grammar issue, could I post it here? That way it'll multiple opinions.

    By the way, it is a work of fiction that I'm dealing with here. I understand that gives me, I suppose, a bit of flexiblility, but I would like to adhere as far as I can to grammar rules. I want to be consistent. However, there are times, like you all pointed out, where a comma helps to make a pause or emphasis. *sighs* So many rules, but so many exceptions .:-D.
     
  13. LibbyAnn
    Offline

    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Messages:
    558
    Likes Received:
    6
    I'm going to pretend like you didn't just call The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible crap and not let you push my buttons :rolleyes:
     
  14. Scribe Rewan
    Offline

    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Messages:
    371
    Likes Received:
    2
    I quite liked The Scarlett Letter. Admittedly I was forced to read it, but I quite liked it. Especially the bit where the author himself besically says 'yeah this bit is a bit unrealistic- we're probably straying into fantasy here.' Can't remember the exact quote, but it was funny.

    Also I'm glad and after a comma is ok, coz i do it all the time.
     
  15. InkDancer
    Offline

    InkDancer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2008
    Messages:
    116
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Sayville, NY
    I would say that the lion's share of books I was forced to read for school turned out to be not so bad. My only exception would be Russian literature.... Fathers and Sons, Crime and Punishment, The Cherry Orchard... can't stand it!

    I think we all have our blind spots when it comes to literature, though. Just because I hate it doesn't mean it's not good.
     
  16. AuthoressM
    Offline

    AuthoressM Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    I still need a bit of help here - more for clarification purposes. Here are some sentences that I believe, based on what I understood from this post, should need a comma before the 'and'. However, I'm not 100% sure. Please take a look, and let me know:

    Her features softened and she patted the girl’s arm.

    Her ginger hair was in two braids and she knelt next to the vanity.

    His face contorted and his mustache twitched.

    As her mind swirled around the memories the cruel man before her had brought forth, her eyes never wavered and her body did not give her away.

    Her top was cropped with no sleeves and her skirt was cut in a diagonal fashion.

    Her words were thick and she held back the urge to laugh at the man before her.

    The room was meant for sanctuary and not for people with ulterior motives. (I'm really this way and that way about this one...)

    “You know, since I didn’t succeed in taking your precious possession, I really think you should let me go and we can forget all this.”

    The monks smiled and there was a loud clapping sound.

    “We want you to go to this antique shop and talk to a man there.” (Another one that I'm this way and that...)

    Our kin have abided by this tradition and so have we throughout our lives. (Same thing here)

    ----

    I really would appreciate opinions. Thanks so much!
     
  17. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    Her features softened and she patted the girl’s arm.

    ...ok as is...

    Her ginger hair was in two braids and she knelt next to the vanity.

    ...ok, punctuation-wise, but poor writing, putting description and action together in the same sentence...

    His face contorted and his mustache twitched.

    ...ok...

    As her mind swirled around the memories the cruel man before her had brought forth, her eyes never wavered and her body did not give her away.

    ...ok...

    Her top was cropped, with no sleeves, and her skirt was cut in a diagonal fashion.

    ...'with no sleeves' is a qualifying clause, telling how the top was cropped...

    Her words were thick and she held back the urge to laugh at the man before her.

    ...ok...

    The room was meant for sanctuary and not for people with ulterior motives. (I'm really this way and that way about this one...)

    ...i'd say a comma could be optional there, depending on the writer's styling preference and meaning...

    “You know, since I didn’t succeed in taking your precious possession, I really think you should let me go and we can forget all this.”

    ...ok...

    The monks smiled and there was a loud clapping sound.

    ...ok...

    “We want you to go to this antique shop and talk to a man there.” (Another one that I'm this way and that...)

    ...ok as is... i wouldn't use a comma... no reason to...

    Our kin have abided by this tradition and so have we, throughout our lives. (Same thing here)

    ...only comma needed, imo, is one i added...

    ...in fiction, comma usage is optional in probably the majority of instances... 10 professional writers might judge these 10 different ways...
     
  18. AuthoressM
    Offline

    AuthoressM Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks so much for taking the time to go through them .:-D. It was much appreciated.

    Another group nod, and they all picked up what they had brought with them.
    A swift nod, and Melas said, “Then, we should get going.
    A curt nod, and the dirty blonde continued.


    I've been told by more than one person that the commas before each 'and' in each of these sentences are correct, but no one can seem to explain why .>_<.
     
  19. Night
    Offline

    Night Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    In an imaginary world.
    Personally, I wouldn't structure those sentences that way in the first place. I would try something like. . .

    The group nodded once more and picked up what they had brought with them.

    Melas nodded swiftly and said "Then, we should get going."

    The dirty blonde nodded curtly and continued.

    The reason why it is incorrect, I personally believe, is simply because they aren't structured right. <.> But if they really are correct, then it may be because they're adverb phrases, and I don't think adverb phrases even need commas before them.
     
  20. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    those persons were not correct...

    a comma is not called for there, since it's merely two different things the group does... but it should be 'nods' as 'group' is a collective noun... and 'they all' doesn't work with 'group' as it refers to individuals...

    a terrible sentence to begin with, that first part being really bad writing, so the question is moot... should be, 'With a swift nod, Melas said,...' in which case, a comma would be correct after 'nod'...

    ditto above...
     
  21. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I have been trying not to comment on the dirty blonde sentence, but I cannot hold back any longer. It seems to imply more about the hygiene or the morals of the poor blonde than about her precise hair color, regardless of how the sentence is punctuated.
     
  22. Banzai
    Offline

    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    12,871
    Likes Received:
    150
    Location:
    Reading, UK
    Was it not supposed to? :confused:
     
  23. AuthoressM
    Offline

    AuthoressM Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for being so nice about it .:-D. And, of course, thanks for your help!

    Of course I mean that to everyone else who helped me as well, but I found this the most helpful (wow, I need to find another word here - I'm using too many 'helps').

    I know the sentence structure is off, but sometimes - rarely - I like to try different ways of writing something that isn't conventional. Unfortunately, grammar seems to get in the way a lot. I know they aren't structured correctly. Guess I didn't make that clear .>_<. Too bad that being creative isn't exactly promoted in writing if it doesn't correlate with grammar. All for the sake of making the writing flow better, right?

    In any case, about this 'dirty blonde' problem some people seem to be having. The sentence is totally taken out of context. I use the label of 'dirty blonde', refering to the character's hair, many times throughout the story, and it is clear by the point this sentence comes up, that it's the color of her hair and nothing to do with how often she bathes. But thank you for bringing it up - it could have been a potential problem. However, I'm confident it is clear, taken in the context of the whole story, that the reader would know it's refering to the character's hair color.

    Thanks .:-D.
     
  24. Night
    Offline

    Night Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2008
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    In an imaginary world.
    No problem! Glad to help.
     
  25. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    thing is, no one really calls anyone that... they refer to a person as 'a blonde' period!... not as 'an ash blonde' or 'a platinum blonde' or even 'a natural blonde'... it's 'blonde' or 'brunette' or 'redhead'...

    just as you wouldn't write, 'the dark brunette' did this or that [unless her skin color was 'dark' not her hair] or, 'the dyed redhead' did whatever, it's not good writing to say, 'the dirty blonde' this or that... get the point?
     

Share This Page