1. James_Heyward
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    James_Heyward Member

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    is this sentence correct?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by James_Heyward, Apr 25, 2010.

    "It was the feel of her axe’s worn wooden handle, and the sound of the babbling creek, Margaret was dreaming of when a rough hand grabbed a fist full of her hair and ripped her out of bed."

    comma placement? just rewrite it?

    thanks.
     
  2. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Maybe you have said a little too much in one sentence.
    Does it really matter about babbling brooks? If not, how about ...

    Margaret was dreaming about the smooth feel of her axe’s worn, wooden handle when a rough hand grabbed a fist full of her hair and ripped her out of bed.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    As zaffy said, the sentence is a bit overstuffed. In terms of puctuation, both commas should be removed. And take a big breath before reading it aloud.

    Also, it should be fistful, not fist full. He's grabbing hair (How much? A fistful) not a fist (full of hair). And ripped is not a good verb choice for removing Margaret from the bed.
     
  4. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    It was the feel of her axe’s worn, wooden handle and the sound of the babbling creek Margaret was dreaming of, when a rough hand grabbed a fist full of her hair and ripped her out of bed.

    I think this is the clearest way of comma placement I could think of if I have to retain everything else in the original sentence (the dream part at one go, separated from the action).... but preferably you should start with 'Margaret was dreaming......'
     
  5. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    You don't need the comma between worn and wooden.

    You could break it down like this (and not reveal the dream until the end):

    Margaret felt invincible when she reached the summit, one hand gripping a worn wooden axe handle while she listened to the babble of the creek. It was the babble that signified victory, her victory. She was a warrior, a heroine, the queen of the world. Then a large, rough hand grabbed a fistful of hair and pulled her out of bed. Bump.
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was the feel of her axe’s worn wooden handle and the sound of the babbling creek Margaret was dreaming of, when a rough hand grabbed a fistful of her hair and ripped (dragged?) her out of bed.

    I pretty much go with Manav, with the slight rewrite above.
     
  7. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Mr. Whiffet,
    Please will you explain the reason why a comma is not required between worn and wooden?
    I thought all adjectives, apart from the last one, pertaining to a noun needed to be divided by commas.
    I think I may have misunderstood the rule.
     
  8. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    Sure.

    Gradable adjectives—that is, ones that can be used in the comparative or superlative—need to be separated by a comma.

    Classifying adjectives—that is, ones that cannot be used in the comparative or superlative—don’t require a comma.

    If you have two gradable adjectives, you need a comma.
    If you have two classifying adjectives, you don’t need a comma.
    If you have one gradable and one classifying adjective, you don’t need a comma.

    In this instance, wooden is classifying (you can tell because it would be nonsensical to write very wooden (by wooden I mean made of wood--not a wooden actor!). Therefore, you don’t need the comma.

    My explanation is taken from the Oxford Style Manual. (Other guides may differ--see mamma's post below)
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're right, zaffy... manav's is the correct version... worn relates to the handle, which is also made of wood, so a comma is properly placed there, to separate the two modifying adjectives...

    that said, it's not a good sentence even if properly punctuated... it's overworded, the syntax is scrambled, and it's crammed with too much info for one poor sentence... here's just one example of how it could be a better, more reader-friendly way to show us all that:

     
  10. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    Chicago Style wouldn’t require the comma either, because the first adjective (worn) is modifying a combination of the noun (handle) and the second adjective (wooden). It gives the example: huge white owl.

    It’s really the same rule as the Oxford Style Manual. The end result is the same, but the OSM’s explanation makes it easier to understand the logic behind it.

    Collins Good Grammar also says not to use a comma in such an instance. It gives the example: Large brick mansion. Again, an application of the OSM rules reveals the logic behind the comma omission.

    Mamma, what is the rule that you use to decide?
     
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  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with HW. In British usage, the comma is optional (although it often makes the sentence clearer).
     
  12. Halcyon
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    WHWS!

    (What Humour Whiffet Said)

    That looks like a guy on solid technical ground. This poster ain't arguing. ;)
     
  13. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    How come Whiffy boy hasn't got more little, green squares?
    (Hope the comma is correct.)
    Whether he is right or wrong, who am I to say, he puts a lot of effort into his messages.
     
  14. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    Thanks guys. If anyone is in any doubt, here is an extract from The New Yorker:

    The "hot comb" was a fine-toothed iron instrument with a long wooden handle and a pair of iron curlers that opened…

    Note: no comma!
     
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  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel the need for examples. Stealing your mansion from a later post, are these valid examples?

    > If you have two gradable adjectives, you need a comma.

    cold, ugly mansion

    > If you have two classifying adjectives, you don’t need a comma.

    classic brick mansion

    > If you have one gradable and one classifying adjective, you don’t need a comma.

    cold brick mansion

    If I put them all together, which is correct? Or are they both legal?

    cold, ugly classic brick mansion
    cold, ugly, classic brick mansion

    I prefer the second, but I've been told that I overuse commas.

    ChickenFreak
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, there is a difference between a
    big fat dog
    and a
    big, fat dog.
    The comma divides the sentence and makes it seem like another item/extra information rather than just like 'one adjective' that the brain absorbs in one chunk.
    Explained very scientifically...not. Sorry, it's been a long day, but maybe a few people get my drift.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would that be a large mansion made of bricks, or a mansion made of large bricks? In other words, do you mean "Large, brick mansion" or "Large-brick mansion"? :p
     
  18. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    Large and made of brick because it (large and brick) hasn't been made into a compound modifier!
     
  19. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    If you’re punctuating Oxford style you don’t need the comma between ugly (gradable) and classic (classifying).

    If you’re punctuation Chicago Style the rule seems to be the same (although I should stress that I don’t have the most recent copy of the Chicago Manual of Style).

    For anyone who is stuck, it’s easy to tell if something is gradable because you can put the word very before it. For example, very thin, very fat, very ugly, very old.

    If something is classifying, you can’t. For example, very wooden, very plastic, very brick.

    So in your example, you don’t need the comma between ugly and classic, because ugly is gradable whereas classic is not.

    I should clarify one thing. I said it was the Oxford Style Manual that contains this rule. It’s actually Hart’s Rules, which forms part of the Oxford Style Manual. The 2003 Oxford Style Manual contained a similar explanation to the one given in my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. The only problem was that the rule was often difficult to apply.

    In 2005 Oxford University Press brought out New Hart’s Rules. It’s this 2005 book that contains the gradable/classifying explanation. It’s a big improvement. Thumbs up to Oxford for making the logic behind the old rule so clear.

    And here is the final bit of good news. New Hart’s Rules says that, if desired, you can break this “rule” should it help with pace and flow, etc. So if you don’t want to use a comma, then fine, leave it out. If you do want to use a comma, then that’s also fine, put it in.


    So come on digitig. If I were you I’d argue why classic is in fact gradable! :)
     
  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why bother? I was happy when I got to "you can break this “rule” should it help with pace and flow", which is pretty much how I feel about all "rules" of punctuation :)

    But given a challenge -- I ran a test on the 3-million word BNC:OU corpus. 97 instances of "classic". No instances of "very classic", no instances of "rather classic". If "classic" is gradeable at all, it's certainly not very gradeable ;)
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    deleted dupe...
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ok, hw, i'll agree the comma could be optional, in that original sentece the poster asked about... as many commas can be and are, in creative writing, despite this or that rule and this or that revered authority's dictum...

    the final say will be the editor's...

    hugs, m
     

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