1. rachel21321
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    rachel21321 Member

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    I hate commas

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by rachel21321, Oct 21, 2009.

    I feel that I have a pretty strong grasp of basic comma rules, but when it come to combining them I feel like it's an overwhelming mess of commas. When do commas hurt rather than help?

    When should I use semicolons and hyphens?

    Show me my options with this sentence, please:

    A) She trudged down the dark, narrow corridor, worn stuffed rabbit in tow, as always.
    B) She trudged down the dark, narrow corridor- worn stuffed rabbit in tow, as always.
    C) She trudged down the dark, narrow corridor, worn stuffed rabbit in tow- as always.

    I'm trying to say that she does this entire action, with rabbit, always. Not that she only always has the rabbit.
     
  2. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    A mass of questions with complicated answers– of which you are going to get several variations here, no doubt.

    When do commas hurt rather than help?– When they (a) confuse the issue and/or (b) impede the flow of words and ideas.

    When should I use semicolons and hyphens?– Semicolons function like periods, except that the two ideas (left and right) are more closely related. Hyphens (I suppose that you mean m-dashes) are very popular alternatives nowadays– I love them!– but are still considered informal substitutes for colons and brackets.

    Show me my options with this sentence, please:-- I think your options are legion, but the commas slow things down; minimize. My choice:


    She trudged down the dark and narrow corridor as always, worn stuffed rabbit in tow.


    I'm trying to say that she does this entire action, with rabbit, always. Not that she only always has the rabbit.-- Trying to get everyone to understand that the rabbit and the trudging always occur together is clear enough to my mind; you must allow the reader some room to think.
     
  3. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I don't think there is any need for an em-dash in this sentence. Just remove the first comma by using "and."

    She trudged down the dark and narrow corridor, worn stuffed rabbit in tow, as always.

    But maybe you could break it up.

    As always, she carried her worn stuffed rabbit. She held it as she trudged down the dark, narrow corridor.
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    The main problem I see in that sentence is the abundance of adjectives. You've got two pairs of adjectives: dark and narrow, worn and stuffed. How much of this information is important? Is anything repeated from earlier? Does the reader already know the tunnel is dark? Is the condition of her rabbit a mystery until now?

    If you delete "dark" or "narrow" you get rid of a comma without the use of "and". Plus, I'd get rid of either "stuffed" or "worn" if possible. . . Adjective pairs tend to be a kind of info-cram. If you actually need them, the sentence is often better off broken up, as Arch demonstrated.

    She trudged down the dark corridor, worn rabbit in tow, as always.

    It's a character thing. . . but I'd probably just imply the "stuffed" bit. To her, maybe the rabbit is like her pet, her fantasy friend and constant companion. To her, it's a rabbit, or maybe Rabbit--a character.

    She trudged down the dark corridor, tired (R?)rabbit in tow, as always.


    My two cents. . .
     
  5. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    I don't think this is a problem with punctuation, more sentence arrangement and word choice, hun.

    With worn rabbit watching her back, she trudged down the dark corridor.

    I don't think you need 'as always'. The reader infers it's is a favourite toy by use of 'worn' and personification of 'watchintg her back' (like a 'most friends should', sort of thing). It's good point about the describers too (dark, long etc). You could go for sensort perception here to guide the reader through the darkness. If it's narrow, close and ask what narrow means to you. I know if my hubby drives through a tight gap with the car, I breath in (a lod of good it does, I know :redface:, but that's how I personally react to 'narrow, and it's that personal experince that the sentence needs, I think).
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The problem isn't the commas, it's the overstuffed sentence. Those two little words, "as always" don't belong. The sentence is about a little girl in a dark hallway at night. Forget that she has been there on many other nights with that same ragged stuffie clenched in her tiny fist. You're ripping the reader out of the present with those two little words, and that's what makes the sentence feel awkward.

    There are far better ways to establish that the bunny is her security fetish. The fact that it is so worn, and that she is carrying it in the middle of the night certainly hints at it.

    When a sentence feels awkward, don't look first at the punctuation. Look at whether the sentence is performing a single purpose, and performing it well.
     
  7. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    A little off topic...

    What's wrong with no comma and no and between dark and narrow?

    She walked down the dark narrow hall. Is a comma necessary here?
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, they are coordinate adjectives, meaning they are inependent modifiers for the same noun. Either one can stand alone to describe the noun, or they can be given in either order. In such a case, they must be separated by a comma.

    Non-coordinate modifiers are modifiers that are not independent of each other. Typically, the first modifier modifies the secoind modifier rather than the noun itself. For a non-coordinate set of modifiers, a comma is NOT used to separate them. For example, a cast iron pot. In this case, cast really describes what type of iron, not what type of pot. It isn't a milled iron pot, or a recycled iron pot. No commas are used for non-coordinated modifiers.
     
  9. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Right, gottit Cog! Thanks
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Cogito about the "overstuffed sentence". Also, at least one of your commas could be replaced with a word making the sentence read better.

    "She trudged down the dark, narrow corridor with her worn, stuffed rabbit in tow, as always.
     
  11. Rawne
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    Rawne Member

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    Was just about to say that there needs to be a comma between worn and stuffed.
     
  12. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    Now it seems– just for the moment– that the corridor has the rabbit. Not true, of course, but if it makes the reader pause and wonder, then it needs to be recast.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    listen to cog... he's nailed it!

    i agree with every one of his points... including the 'as always' problem...
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    What in the worn stuffed rabbit case, then?

    Is it a "worn, stuffed rabbit", or a "worn stuffed rabbit". It's made from stuffing the same was as the pot is made from iron.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Worn and stuffed both directly and independently modify rabbit; they are coordinate adjectives. Therefore the comma is needed.

    On the other hand, if it were a cotton stuffed rabbit, then cotton modifies stuffed, not rabbit; no comma.
     
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  16. rachel21321
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    rachel21321 Member

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    thanks for all the advice. i think, especially when writing stories versus poetry, i do try to fit too much in.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if 'cotton-stuffed' a hyphen would be needed, cog...
     
  18. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    You should read my whole argument if you intend to respond to it, thank you.

    Isn't "worn" modifying the phrase "stuffed rabbit," a type of rabbit? Not that stuffed rabbit is a type of rabbit like Silver rabbit or Silver Fox rabbit, and yes those are types of rabbit. So there would be no comma for "blue-spotted Silver Fox rabbit."

    A stuffed rabbit is a type of toy, and it seems to me the phrase should be promoted to "stuffed-rabbit" since it is so widely used and recognized as a type of toy. Or perhaps the hyphen is not needed, but it will be understood as a type. Then it would be distinguished from an actual stuffed rabbit, that is a living rabbit that was killed and stuffed.

    If "worn" is not modifying the phrase "stuffed rabbit" a type of toy, then how will I tell the difference (outside of context) between a "worn stuffed rabbit" (a type of toy) and a "worn, stuffed rabbit" that is "worn and stuffed rabbit" (a dead animal)?

    Personally, I think the toy should be promoted to stuffed-rabbit, and the dead animal can remain as stuffed rabbit.
     
  19. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure who or what you're responding to there, but I agree with you on the hyphen thing. It does seem to be a matter of personal preference, though.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i see no good reason to hyphenate 'stuffed-rabbit'... i'd correct that, if i saw it in work i was editing... imo, since the rabbit is both worn and stuffed, the correct way to write it would be:

    just like if it was a:

     
  21. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    But there is not a toy called "love rabbit," and so it is not a type. But "stuffed rabbit," being a type of toy, is a type.

    So outside of context, how would we tell the difference between, "She ran with a worn stuffed rabbit," and "She ran with a worn stuffed rabbit," if one was a toy and the other was a dead animal. Can you tell which sentence I meant to be the toy?

    For this reason, I think when it is a toy, it should be, "worn stuffed rabbit," and when a dead animal, "worn, stuffed rabbit."

    It just seems more natural to me is all. I feel that "worn" is modifying the phrase "stuffed rabbit" rather than the word "rabbit," at least when it is a toy.

    Eitherway, context should make it clear if "stuffed rabbit" is a toy or a dead animal. But who knows, perhaps in the future we will see "stuffed-rabbit" in the dictionary as a toy. Yay! :)
     

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