1. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Comma Use

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lostinwebspace, Sep 8, 2011.

    Should the starred comma be there or not? Or is it up to me?

    His rib hurt so much*,* the pain shot through his arms.
     
  2. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    No, but the sentence would be helped rhythmically with the addition of "that".
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Lightman, I guess your ears are different from mine. I like the rhythm better without the "that". But you're right: the comma is unnecessary.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'that' is seldom needed and certainly isn't, in that sentence... a comma isn't needed either, but if you want the reader to pause there, leave it in... it's a styling issue, not one of rules 'n regs...
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agreed.
     
  6. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    To my ears, you've either got to say:

    "His rib hurt so much, the pain shot through his arms"

    or

    "His rib hurt so much that the pain shot through his arms."

    "His rib hurt so much the pain shot through his arms." is perfectly grammatically correct, but doesn't do the reader any kindness.

    "the pain shot through his arms" is a subclause. Including a comma makes it easier for the reader to parse the sentence.

    I wonder whether there is a subtle difference between US and UK English here. When I try to sound the sentence "His rib hurt so much the pain shot through his arms." I hear it with an Amercian accent.

    I know there are people on here who have strong views that "that" is always unnecessary. There are some situations where "that" is needed (although it can often be replaced by "which"). My rule of thumb is if you can remove "that" and the sentence still makes sense, then "that" is not needed, but it may be help the sentence to flow. If it can be replaced by "which" then I think it's a question of personal preference whether to us "that" or "which". There are other situations where that is needed to distinguish oine thing from a number of similar things. "That day" for example.

    Excessive use of "that" as a padder word (can't remember the correct term for it!) does make for poor English imo. I tend to scan my prose to see where I've used "that". If there are just a couple of uses of "that" as a padder in a short story, I don't fuss too much. More than that (sic) and I tend to rewrite.
     
  7. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I agree with you. Sounds better with 'that'. And I do think it's an English/Americal divide.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that it's probably a US/British divide, but I think the US usage is creeping into British English too, which is why I didn't bat an eye at it either way. I'd either have "that" or a comma to show the omitted word, but I wouldn't fault somebody who put neither.
     
  9. Blackgamen
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    Blackgamen Member

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    I'd personally put "that"
    A comma wouldn't work as well.
     
  10. katek
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    katek Member

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    Interesting comment on the British vs American.

    As a Brit, I'd definitely use 'that' in the sentence.

    'If it can be replaced by "which" then I think it's a question of personal preference whether to us "that" or "which' - 'which' would require a comma before it, whereas 'that' wouldn't necessarily though, right?
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whether it needs a comma or not is pretty much down to whether it's a restrictive clause (no comma) or non-restrictive clause (comma). Various people have been lobbying for many years to mandate that "that" is used exclusively for restrictive clauses and "which" for non-restrictive clauses (and have managed to get it into some style guides as a rule), but writers (including some of the greatest) have ignored that lobby and continue to use whichever they think sounds best.
     
  12. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    It's weird when you remove "that" from this sentence because then it could be two full sentences.

    His rib hurt so much.
    The pain shot through his arms.

    IMO, the writing would probably benefit from going into "showing" detail.

    When he touched his rib, pain exploded from his side all the way up his arms.

    Or something like that.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first of those is interesting. Grammatically it isn't really a full sentence: it works because of "elision" -- missing out a bit that the reader is expected to fill in for themselves. But I suspect that "so much" has become an idiom meaning "a lot", and the rules of grammar don't apply in such a straightforward way to idioms. Certainly splitting it in that way changes the meaning -- it removes the causality.
    That's obviously a matter of personal taste. I much prefer the original (and your version is telling, not showing, as well -- nobody else can see the pain exploding up his arm).
     
  14. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^this!
    I'm neither american nor british, but to me it reads a lot better with the "that" to separate them. I am by no means a grammar expert, I probably should use commas more often myself, :rolleyes: but I find it interrupts the flow of the text. Maybe it's also a matter of writing style and language? i guess it depends a lot on HOW you write because in some ways the commas are less necessary...
     
  15. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    MarmaladeQueen, I couldn't agree with you more.
    Or should I say: MarmaladeQueen I couldn't agree with you more.
    Yes, leave the comma in - Difinitely.
    We need more voices like yours instead of people saying it's acceptable.
    No. It is not acceptable.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm American, and I want a "that". The sentence without the comma feels just wrong to me, with the comma feels only a little better. In my book, it needs the "that".
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    aside from the grammatical issues, i have to question whether the pain in a rib could radiate into both arms... i doubt it would...
     
  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    He could certainly have that perception, but needs to see a medical professional soon because a pain spreading from the area of the ribs to the arms sounds like a heart problem.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's the left arm, certainly, dig... if equally to both arms, i'd look for nerve-involvement in the spine...
     

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