1. eroche
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    eroche New Member

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    Do i need a comma here?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by eroche, Apr 18, 2012.

    Do the following sentences need the comma:

    When it is employed as a literary device, comedy breaks a tense atmosphere
    When he worked as a salesman, he drove a Ford car



    I think not, but I just want to make sure.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    No for the first sentence.
    For the second one, you'd be better using 'While,' instead of 'When.' In which case you would need to keep the comma.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to disagree, but they both need a comma, to set the modifying clause apart from the main part of the sentence...

    and i see no problem with 'when' in the second sentence... in fact, i would prefer it to 'while'...
     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Listen to what your Mamma tells you.
     
  5. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    Technically yes

    However, in these particular cases (especially the first) unless you're aiming for a very formal register, few people would pick up on it and even fewer would care. It all depends who your audience is, I write YA, so sometimes I use non standard grammar to get the 'voice' right.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's fine, if it's dialog, or the voice of a narrator... but stinting on proper grammar just because the readers supposedly won't know any better doesn't sound like a very good thing to do, imo...

    as an editor, i sure wouldn't let the writer get away with setting a bad example, if there wasn't a better reason than that for it...
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would have thought that dialogue would be the worst place for it, because you can't hear punctuation marks (unless you do them the Victor Borge way). An obvious place where dropping the comma would be acceptable would be in something a character has written.
     
  8. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both sentences need a comma.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    dig... i wasn't referring to comma use, only to 'non-standard grammar' in re this comment:

    i thought it would be clear, since i was following that post, but i guess i should have included the excerpt... sorry for the confusion...

    hugs, m
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ok, I hadn't noticed that we'd drifted from the original question! Agreed completely in that case.
     
  11. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I would use a comma in both sentences as well.
     
  12. lorilee
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    lorilee Member

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    I say both. Read them out loud and see if you pause anywhere. That's always a good way to check.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That hasn't been a good way to check since about the 19th century. It <em>used</em> to be the basis of punctuation in English, but nowadays punctuation is pretty much all about the grammatical structure, not the phrasing of the corresponding speech.
     
  14. lorilee
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    lorilee Member

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    Since grammatical structure came from the phrasing of the corresponding speech (since that's what it was originally based on), it's a perfectly vaild way to check. The human mind will fill in what it expects to be there when reading silently, like missing punctuation, typos, etc. and those mistakes often get missed. You can't do the same when reading aloud.

    And last time I looked, I and others I know that it works for live in the 21st century.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a more controversial statement than it seems, actually. Much of modern English written grammar didn't come from (English) speech, it arose specifically for written language, mainly following the development of printing.
    But punctuation marks in contemporary English don't correspond all that well with pauses in speech. When you read it out loud you don't necessarily pause in the same places as modern convention would require you to put a punctuation mark, and if you put punctuation marks everywhere you pause the result will be over-punctuated. There is a value in reading a passage out loud, but it's when you have a choice of how to punctuate something (punctuation being, as G V Carey noted, two-thirds rule and one-third personal taste). Then the flow of how it reads out loud can help you make informed choices.
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both need commas.
    Agree with digtig--the 'put commas where you pause' idea is, unfortunately, flawed, and will do nothing for your accuracy in punctuating prose. People have different cadences of speech, anyway. Much better to learn basic rules--although the rules can be bent in poetry, idimatic speech etc sometimes.
     
  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup, both need commas.
     
  18. Areadrill
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    Areadrill Senior Member

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    You can change the sentences so that none of them needs a comma:

    Comedy breaks a tense atmosphere when employed as a literary device.
    He drove a Ford car when he worked as a salesman.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    both of those technically still need a comma before 'when,' since it still introduces a modifying clause, though one's styling preference might see them left out...

    listen to dig and mad on all else... they're right!
     

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