1. Dom
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    Dom New Member

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    I cannot find the rule for this particular usage of a comma.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Dom, Nov 14, 2010.

    I love the heavy and complex style of H.P. Lovecraft, but lately I have noticed a lot of odd choices in his punctuation while reading through The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. In one example, I cannot find any rules concerning his comma usage:

    "At the end of the conference he was very grave, and enjoined strict silence upon the younger men."

    What rules make that sentence correct, if any? Moreover, are there any rules that are used to place a comma with a conjuction between an indepedent clause and a dependent clause?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    A sentence is a collection of words that make sense beginning with a capital letter and ending with a fullstop. A comma is for a break in the sentence. Where you opt to put them how long the sentence is to a certain extent can be controlled by the author using them to create the effect they are happy with. It is useful to consider your readers though.

    Have you tried reading a Scots Quair?
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A comma can be used to show a dramatic pause. That's the way it's being used in your example.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There are some situations where you can "imply" the subject of an independent clause. Don't know if you can do that here, but if so I think you could argue these are two independent clauses.

    But I agree that one can employ commas as needed for dramatic effect (pauses, etc.) so it may be that Lovecraft is doing so here. I find that older works tend to use commas more frequently than contemporary works.
     
  5. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Often times, professional can get away with breaking or bending the rules because people know he/she already knows how to write. It then obvious that the error was made on purpose. This could be one of those times because the comma there is not necessary.

    ...Or it could just be a typo.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    works written long ago do not follow today's norms in punctuation usage, as well as in style... this is just one example of that...

    lovecraft died in '37 [the year before i was born], wrote admittedly 'weird' fiction, so i wouldn't try to apply any rules/norms we follow today, to what he turned out... ;-)
     
  7. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    My thought

    He's not really breaking the rules. Sometimes you have to move the complete thought around to see why it fits.

    At the end of the conference << denotes a time and preceding marker for the sentence, so it has to have a comma.

    He was very grave << Is a descriptor of the man's demeanor but H.P. Lovecraft is insisting that it is connected to the time frame indicator.

    He wrote it with his usual style, but this is what it would normally look like:
    "He was very grave at the end of the conference, which enjoined strict silence upon the younger men."

    The two sentences are the same, which can be replaced with and...

    Technically he is wrong, but in grammar, getting your thought across exactly how you mean, takes precedence almost 99% of the time.

    The way her wrote it would normally be:
    "At the end of the conference, he was very grave, and enjoined strict silence upon the younger men."

    So since he wrote it his way, with his flare (HP Lovecraft), if it's not a mistake, is asking to look carefully and a connect the end of the conference and being grave together as a cause to the strict silence, rather then the conference causing the grave appearance and strict silence.


     
  8. Screams of Silence
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    Screams of Silence Member

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    The above is true. I break rules regarding commas, it goes back to my beginning as a singer and writing lyrics. I sometimes use a comma simply to add a particular melody or rhythm to the passage. Maybe, sometimes I do break "rules", but I don't care so long as my story flows the way I want it to. You can get away with it as long as you don't make it obvious.

    PS, Lovecraft is one of my all time favorite writers :)
     
  9. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    I think that many people forget that a comma also serves the purpose of stopping potential misunderstandings. Perhaps Mr. Lovecraft thought that "gave and enjoined" (without a comma) might be interpreted as a list of two adjectives. Because he intended to use the past tense of "enjoin", he put a comma there to show that the first clause ends after "grave". Some would argue that such a structure should be rewritten. Then again, would we ask a painter to repaint that which we believe does not adhere to our preconceptions of the language of paint? Some authors write by removing almost all punctuation, and that is seen as cutting edge.
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    As I read it, that gives the sentence a different meaning. It could even be read as if it's the end of the conference in itself that enjoines the silence.

    In the original sentence it's an additional thing to him being grave at the end.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Punctuation is as much a matter of art as a matter of rules. There doesn't have to be a rule to make a sentence "correct", just no rule making it "incorrect" (and no justification for it being "incorrect"). Creative writing is written and read by humans, not computers.
     
  12. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Sometimes it depends on the entire paragraph or excerpt, too. If all of the other sentences start out with a comma after the first three words, perhaps the sentence in review is punctuated with fluency in mind, to add diversity.
     

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