1. punk
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    punk Active Member

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    Comma clause thing

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by punk, Feb 12, 2011.

    Hey guys, I looked through the grammar sites and couldn't find a rule for this one. I probably didn't look hard enough, but anywhos....

    "Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that by doing so, the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility."

    Is this correct? It sounds really awkward to me.

    Thanks
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's correct, because the 'reason clause' is between commas, like brackets (parentheses):
    ... , believing that by doing so, ...

    You are merging two sentences like:
    Early Americans adopted democracy.
    BECAUSE
    They believed that by adopting democracy the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility.

    Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that by doing so, (i.e. by adopting democracy) the individual would be free (from that time into the future) to think independently and take political responsibility.

    If you shorten the sentence:
    Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility.
    You lose the sense of democracy being the main starting point for this--it could mean just that they believed these things anyway.
     
  3. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    I don't think there is anything wrong with the sentence, but maybe the same sentiment could be said with less words.

    Early Americans adopted democracy in order to attain political responsibilty.

    If nothing is lost with less words, then why use more?
     
  4. punk
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    punk Active Member

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    Thanks madhoca

    Zaffy, I could use that, but I'm setting the "believing that by doing so" up for failure. In the sentences following, I go on to refute the early Americans' ideas, claiming that our attempts to raise the intellectual standard have backfired on us, and now idiots are allowed to vote.

    If I use "in order to", it sounds as if their attempts actually did establish political responsibility.

    Thanks guys/girls
     
  5. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    punk

    I don't believe that it is quite correct.

    I think that your first comma should follow after that and not after democracy.

    "Early Americans adopted democracy believing that, by doing so, the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility."

    The acid test is that you could remove the commas and the words within them, and the sentence would still make structural sense, which wouldn't be the case in your original sentence.
     
  6. punk
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    punk Active Member

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    Halycon, that sounds much better. I totally forgot to use that test to see if it would make sense. Thank you!
     
  7. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Personally, I would remove the second comma to read: "Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility."

    The reason I do this is because "believing that the individual would..." is a participle phrase that modifies "early Americans." I omitted "by doing so" because it is just wordiness (basically repeats "adopted democracy").

    A nice little trick you can use to identify these types of modifying phrases is they are interchangeable throughout the sentence (Believing that the individual...political responsibility, early Americans adopted democracy. or Early Americans, believing...political responsibility, adopt democracy. or the way you have it without the additional comma).
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's wrong, but I don't have the terminology to explain why. I think that "the individual" from the third part, should be the entity that is "doing so", in the second part. They're not, so I think that it's grammatically incorrect. Can anyone tell me what the proper terminology is here?

    An example:

    Correct Sentence: Joe redecorated the living room, believing that by doing so, he would put his own stamp on the style of the house.

    Rewriting this sentence to be like the first would make it:

    Incorrect Sentence: Joe redecorated the living room, believing that by doing so, the house would reflect his personal style.

    This is incorrect, because the house didn't "do so".

    Rewriting the original sentence to match this pattern, it would look more like:

    Correct Sentence: Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that by doing so, they would ensure that the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility.

    This is unnecessarily complicated, but I think it's correct. I might simplify it to:

    Early Americans adopted democracy in order to grant individuals the freedom to think independently and take political responsibility.
     
  9. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    I think it is not correct
     
  10. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    That make sense
     
  11. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    A few more things to add.

    "that" in this sentence is being used as a conjunction introducing a subordinate clause (the individual would be free...)

    The prepositional phrase "by doing so" is an introductory phrase to "the individual." It is also a phrase not essential to the sentence. If kept in the sentence, it needs commas on both sides of it (believing that, by doing so, the individual would be free...). However, ChickenFreak is correct in pointing out that "the individual" didn't "adopt democracy." By omitting this "by doing so" phrase, you also correct that problem.

    "Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility."

    I might also suggest simplifying it depending on the context.
     
  12. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    You could get rid of 'that'.
     
  13. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Then is your sentence correct?

    The acid test is that you could remove the commas and the words within them which wouldn't be the case in your original sentence.

    However, I am keen to understand the theory. I lived by this rule for many years. Then I posted a question about it sometime back and was told it did not always apply.

    Would appreciate more discussion.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i would definitely leave out that that!

    the sentence still makes the same sense without it, is simpler, reads better...
     
  15. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    zaffy

    Actually yes, my sentence would still be technically correct, although the meaning of it may be less clear.

    "The acid test is that you could remove the commas and the words within them which wouldn't be the case in your original sentence."

    However, if you remove the commas and all the words in between from the sentence in the original post, it would no longer be technically correct. :)

    "Early Americans adopted democracy the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility"
     
  16. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    What about this rewording:

    "The Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that it would ensure freedom for the individual to think independently and take political responsibility."
     
  17. Publishless
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    Publishless New Member

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    The original sentence may be improved if rewritten but it's only grammatically incorrect on account of one missing comma. I think.

    I don't know that Raki's take that you could or should take away "by doing so" is correct.

    "Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that by doing so, the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility."

    Let's build this basic and get more complex:

    Two sentences:
    EA adopted democracy.
    EA believed democracy would allow individuals...

    Raki's above solution would render the second sentence: "EA believed individuals would be free..." which makes no sense without the "democracy" modifier.

    So two sentences become one with compound verbs: "adopt", "belief"
    EA adopted democracy and believed that democracy would allow individuals...

    To get rid of the "and" the sentence becomes a past participle phrase combing past form -ed with present participle -ing. Past participle phrases must be set apart by commas.
    EA adopted democracy, believing that democracy would allow individuals...

    Then, to get rid of the repetitive use of democracy we have to remember that "adopting democracy" is what "individuals would be free" is dependent on.

    And this is where my understanding (rather, identifying) grammar falls flat.

    "By doing so" is what introduces the dependent clause "individuals..." not "that".

    But I don't know what that's called.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm pretty sure it's more than that--for it to be correct, I think that the entity "doing so" would need to be "individuals", rather than "early Americans".

    ChickenFreak
     
  19. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    "Early Americans believed the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility."

    Makes perfect sense as it is. It's a complete, independent clause. It doesn't tell you why they believed this or what they did because they believed this. It just says they believed, which makes perfect sense. It's no different than saying: "The dogs believed the cats would be long gone."

    Including it as the participle phrase modifying early Americans in the original sentence works just as well, too. "Early Americans adopted democracy because they believed the individual..." to "Early Americans adopted democracy, believing the individual..."

    In my earlier post I pointed this out. "By doing so" is an introductory phrase to "the individual." It is also a prepositional phrase that basically repeats "adopted democracy." It's wordiness. What's more, as ChickenFreak pointed out earlier, "the individual" didn't do as the introductory phrase suggests "adopt democracy."

    "By doing so, the individual would be free..." couldn't happen unless "the individual" is "early Americans," which in this particular case "the individual" is not. This sentence is not different than: "Adopting democracy, the individual would be free..." It makes no sense with its inclusion.

    To omit "that by doing so" makes perfect sense with the original sentence.
    "EA adopted democracy, believing the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility." which is no different than me saying: "I posted this, believing you would be able to understand."
     
  20. Publishless
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    Publishless New Member

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    Well played sarcasm, sir.

    Your examples are all great but something is still not
    lining up for me. It may be me reading the sentence differently than intended. Or just stupidity, that could be it.

    I understand the sentence as saying democracy was adopted to affect the individual’s freedom. Your version reads as though the belief in the ability of the individual affected the decision to adopt democracy.

    With my understanding of the original sentence, the removal of “by doing so” leaves the sentence with funky subject-verb agreement.

    The subject is “Early Americans.” “Individuals” is not the subject, nor are they the same Early Americans adopting democracy (though, undoubtedly the individuals were also Early Americans).

    Democracy is the direct object of adopt. Individuals are the indirect object of “adopting democracy”.

    If the sentence said “,believing that it allowed individuals”, “it” would serve as the object “democracy”. Instead the sentence says “that, by doing so,” which links adopting democracy" to the indirect object, individuals.

    Let’s combine two different sentences with a distinct subject:
    1) He installed an invisible fence.
    2) He thought that an invisible fence would keep the dog in the yard.

    He installed an invisible fence and thought that it would keep the dog in the yard.

    He installed an invisible fence, thinking that it would keep the dog in the yard.

    He installed an invisible fence, thinking that, by doing so, the dog would stay in the yard.

    If you wanted to use “it” instead of “by doing so”, I think this alternate version is better:

    Thinking that it would keep the dog in the yard, he installed an invisible fence.

    Believing that it allowed individuals to be free, the early Americans adopted democracy.

    But, to my eyes, the original sentence has the best structure because it put emphasis on the actual adoption of democracy. It could benefit from a clearer distinction between those adopting democracy and the individuals it affects.

    For me it answers who, what, and why in a way many of the examples do not.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But, again, this would only be correct if the dog installed the fence. I'm still not clear on the terminology, but I'm quite confident that the "by doing so" ties the beginning and the end together - the entity acting at the beginning needs to be the entity acting at the end. In this case, they're not--at the beginning, it's "he", and at the end, it's the dog.

    You could make it correct by saying:

    He installed an invisible fence, thinking that, by doing so, he would ensure that the dog would stay in the yard.

    In this case, the entities are the same--"he" is installing and "he" is ensuring.

    Does it make it any clearer if I eliminate any clear actor in the last part? For example, how about:

    He painted the wall green, believing that, by doing so, life would be good.

    Does that "feel" wrong to you, or is the problem still not clear? Again, for this to make sense, "life" would have to be "he" and would have to be the entity painting the wall green. And, again, it could be corrected by changing the sentence to:

    He painted the wall green, believing that by doing so, he would ensure that life would be good.

    ChickenFreak
     
  22. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's wrong. I would drop the comma completely:
    Early Americans adopted democracy, believing that by doing so the individual would be free to think independently and take political responsibility."
    I think the sentences biggest problem is that it is not clear (with or without the comma) whether the agent of "doing so" relates to "Early Americans" or "the individual". If you fix that problem, I bet the punctuation problem goes away.
     
  23. Publishless
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    Publishless New Member

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    Bingo. I agree with you.

    I was curious about this and did a google book search of “that by doing so” The vast majority of results are similar to ChickFreak's examples (also, the vast majority of results didn’t use commas around “by doing so”, just as digtig says)

    He did x / that by doing x he

    They did x / that by doing x they

    ChickFreak is right too; the green wall sentence doesn’t feel good to me. Not one bit.

    I found some google book examples that were counter to the majority:
    “I was anxious to avoid this course if I could be satisfied that by doing so neither the interest nor the honor of my country would be compromitted “ -Andrew Jackson 1835

    The people make it a rule to not go out of the house at mid-day, because they fancy by doing so a man may lose the shadow of his soul.” -The Golden Bough, James George Frazer

    The southern tribes— Matuntara, Mularatara, Pitjen- tara— eat every second child and believe that by doing so the strength of every first child will be doubled.

    And I can make examples that work:
    I planted a tree and believe that by doing so the world has one more tree.

    Hmmm.
     
  24. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    :p Yea, that's just how I would phrase it: "EA adopted democracy, believing the individual..." Personally I wouldn't use "that by doing so" because it's just wordiness, as I've stated it repeats what the sentence has already said.

    "The Individual" is the subject of the subordinate clause (the individual would be free...). The removal of a prepositional phrase (by doing so) should never really mess with the subject-verb agreement. It may alter the meaning of a sentence, but you should be able to tear the prepositional phrases from a sentence to break it down to its core elements and leave the subject-verb agreement intact. The verb for "the individual" is "would be" and "free" is the object of this subordinate clause. Altogether, "the individual would be free" forms the object for "early Americans believing" not "adopted democracy."
     

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