1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Correct punctuation with complex sentences ending in ?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by doggiedude, Aug 2, 2016.

    I'm always unsure how to correctly use punctuation with these sort of sentences.

    He had no power to help anyone, and even if he did, what could he do?

    Is that correct?
     
  2. Brindy
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    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

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    I think I would have the comma after 'and'

    He had no power to help anyone and, even if he did, what could he do?
     
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  3. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or make it two sentences. Remove the 'and.'
     
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  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    There are other options, but yes, what you have is correct.
     
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  5. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    - He, had no power, to help, anyone, and even, if, he did, what, could he, do?

    I want to answer the question because if he had power, there are a multitude of options, and alternatives.

    Fly there, get her back, physically impose himself on the beach, puncture the volleyball, remember only a summer fling - for her. Or shoot the bastard(s), both of them at dinner, candlelit, shoot the violin player, swallow their thorny rose upon the table and walk away in his pain [solo], sell her house while she is away. There's always something can be done.
     
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  6. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd agree with this.
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yup. It's correct as it is.
     
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  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    As @Brindy says, the comma should go after and; this makes even if he did into a sub-clause, which by definition can be removed without affecting whether the sentence makes sense; do that with the original and you get an incomplete sentence.

    Amended
    He had no power to help anyone and, even if he did, what could he do?

    Original
    He had no power to help anyone, and even if he did, what could he do?

    Although the sentence seems somewhat tautologous; there being nothing he could do implies powerlessness.
     
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  9. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    But when you say the sentence out loud, the pause is before 'and'. At least it is for my speech pattern. Isn't that the purpose of a comma, to indicate a slight pause?
     
  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No.

    There are specific uses for a comma, and just because you run out of breath isn't one of them.

    But, do you really pause for breath before the and?

    He had no power to help anyone
    and even if he did
    what could he do?


    He had no power to help anyone and
    even if he did
    what could he do?


    Taking it your way, you could remove the middle section as if it were a sub-clause; the problem is you then leave yourself with a run-on sentence; if you put a comma in at that point, you end up with a comma splice.
     
  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definitely. It's a real distinct pause too. maybe it's just where I come from.
     
  12. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I kinda agree with @OurJud. When I say it out loud, I pause after the "anyone".
    This is the whole reason I had trouble with where the comma goes to begin with. From what I understand, @Shadowfax is correct about the comma isolating the clause but when spoken it comes out awkward to me with the comma after "and."
     
  13. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    It does, but as @matwoolf says you could always eliminate the debate and change it to: He had no power to help anyone. Even if he did, what could he do? Which sounds just as good to me.
     
  14. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I hear the same pause before "and" as @OurJud and @doggiedude. Which is why, to me, it sounds like it would be two sentences.

    Either as the above post--"He had no power to help anyone. Even if he did, what could he do?"
    Or--"He had no power to help anyone. And even if he did, what could he do?"

    I suppose the difference between those two sentences is a tone/style debate. But I think people are hearing the pause before "and" because it is naturally a full stop.
     
  15. Brindy
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    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

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    When I read it out loud the natural pause is after 'and'. It may be safer to split into two sentences.
     
  16. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    +3. I think it reads much better as two sentences.
     
  17. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    In the example above, I have changed it into two sentences now, but was more interested in how it should be correctly formatted in a single sentence.

    I also have trouble with dialogue tags with questions.
    "Why should I?" He said.
    "Why should I," he said?
    "Why should I?" he said.
     
  18. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    "Why should I?" he said.
     
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  19. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Why should I?" he said.

    I asked the exact same question a couple of days ago. The line between quotes is independent, therefore the capital after a question mark rule doesn't apply.

    Spence beat me to it.
     
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  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Forget the pause thing. I know many of us are taught that commas should go where we pause in speech, but it's not true - just a lazy way of teaching kids, because correctly placed commas often correlate with pauses. But it's not always, and that's not their purpose.

    Use @Shadowfax's method.
     
  21. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Look @Shadowfax speeding things up.
    You really show us the meaning of haste.
    (jumps off a cliff)
     

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