1. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Oh my, God. Questions

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by architectus, Jun 9, 2009.

    I know a comma goes after words like Oh, but what if it ruins the flow of speech you are trying to achieve?

    "Oh, my, God." vs "Oh my, God."

    The first one sounds like an airhead is speaking. Is the second version acceptable? Would an editor cringe because of a lacking comma?

    And because she's not technically addressing God, could it be, "Oh my God, it's you."?
     
  2. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I would always write this "Oh my god" because that's how people say it. . . They don't pause, and they're not actually talking to god. It's just an exclamation like "crap on a biscuit!".

    If they were to address God directly, as if having a (one-sided or otherwise) conversation, then the "Oh my, god" would be fine because in that sentence "oh my!" is the exclamation, and god is the person being addressed. Just like "crap on a biscuit, Jim".

    "Oh my! God, why have you forsaken me?"

    Anyway, if your character is just saying "Oh my god!" as an exclamation, then I don't believe that any commas are called for. "Oh my god! I locked my keys in the car" is correct.

    Edit: Maybe I should clarify. . .

    I think the problem is that if you put a comma anywhere in the phrase you change it from a simple exclamation. For example, you write "Oh, my god" and in so doing you've actually expressed two exclamations, because the comma indicates a slight pause. Your character is saying "Oh!" and then "My God!" as if suddenly realising something ("Oh!") and then emphasising their surprise by adding "My God!"

    lol I hope that made sense.:) I'm just saying that commas have a way of changing the meaning of any sentence, and that a simple exclamation should always remain unobstructed, in terms of punctuation, to accurately represent the way people speak.

    The "Oh my God, it's you" phrasing makes perfect sense to me. He/she is saying "oh my god!" as an exclamation followed by "it's you" as a statement, the separation of the two being indicated by a comma.
     
  3. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Kas, agree. Unless I want the person to say, "Oh, my God." Sometimes that pause works. Or it might even work better in that case as, "Oh. my God, who would do this?"

    Or the airhead valley girl. "Oh, my, God, Becky, look at her butt."

    Do you feel there should be an exclamation mark every time someone says, "Oh my God," or any other exclamation?

    I like to reserve it for when the person is saying it with excitement, when the character says it loudly.
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I don't believe you need an exclamation mark to indicate an exclamation. When you write it comma-free the meaning is pretty clear, IMO. In fact, it's so overused that you can write it like this "Oh my god. . ." Even though the person may be speaking in a hushed voice, it's still technically an exclamation as indicated by the lack of commas.

    Also, your airhead speak might look better with dashes: "Oh - my - God - Alice, look at those shoes!" I'm a bit curious as to what people might think of that. . . I'm pretty sure I have seen it done a few times before. I prefer the dashes because the commas look sloppy.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I can't recall dashes ever being used like that, but it is better on the eyes.

    Oh--my--God--Becky look at . . .

    I know you can technically use the em-dash.

    It would be cool to find out what people think because I've been working on an airhead character. I mean, really dumb.

    "Hey, so I just like figured out how to set the clock on my microwave."
    "Wow, you're a genius."
    "I know, right?"
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I think you need to enclose the 'like' in commas, and not just for grammar reasons. That's how people actually say it - they pause slightly.

    "Hey, so I just, like, figured out how to set the clock. . ."

    The extra commas are annoying, but. . . that's because the person is annoying. The dumber your character, the more commas you use, I think.;)
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Oh my god really doesn't need a comma at all....its a phrase that has never had grammar in it, and using it would just be strange. Also, I've never really heard anyone pause when saying it (like Oh, my god) unless its as seperate phrases and they're just removing the repetition, like Oh...(Oh) my god...or they are doing that stupid 90s thing (which no one does anymore, who has time to pause these days....)
    But defo enclose like in commas
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Well get this. It is common to put commas after words like oh, like I said before. Now, in the novel Winter and Night (won the Edgar for best novel) S. J. Rozen (American Author) always writes like so:

    "Oh, my God."
    "Oh, Jesus God . . ."
    "Oh, thank God."
    "Oh, good God."
    "Oh, hey, yeah."
    "Oh, f** yeah."

    Yet Jan Burke is inconsist in the novel Bones (won the Edgar in 2000 for best novel). American author.
    "Oh God, don't make me a pathologist."
    "Oh, Jesus, you're her husband."
    "Oh, God!"
    "Oh God, Bingle!"

    it is consistent with, "Oh, yeah."

    In American Gods (won Nebula) Neil Gaimen, English Author.
    "Oh my God!"
    "Oh for God's sake, somebody . . ."

    Forever Peace (won Nebula) Jack Haldeman, American author.
    "Oh, my God, I'm sorry,"
     
  9. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Every one of those quotes make sense. . . It all just depends on how your character talks - and whether they pause or not partly depends on what they're trying to say. I think it's pretty much just a question of common sense and using whatever fits where it fits. You're probably over-thinking this one.

    "Oh, Jesus God . . ."
    "Oh, thank God."
    "Oh, good God."
    "Oh, hey, yeah."
    "Oh, f** yeah."

    I would say every one of those phrases exactly like that. . . The only one that trips me up a little is the "oh, my god", which just sounds awkward to me. But of course everyone says things differently and for that reason there really aren't that many rock-solid dialogue rules.

    As for the guy who is inconsistent, it still makes sense. Those quotes are probably from different people. Even if they were all from the same person it would be fine. Different punctuation might be called for depending on what they're saying and how they say it in the moment.

    The only important thing to keep in mind is how a comma (pause) can change the phrase. That way you don't misrepresent your character. You seem to have a good handle on things, so try not to stress over nothing.:)
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Oh, I was only showing those examples to point out there is no set way. You can write, "Oh my God," or "Oh, my God."

    However, I think the reason some write, "Oh, my God," is not because that is how someone might say it, but because a comma follows words like oh, now, and such. Now, when I was five . . .

    When most everytime one of those authors write "oh" it is followed by a comma, even if we wouldn't naturally pause when saying it.

    I just wanted to be sure that I could write, "Oh my god," when I feel it serves the speech better, and I guess I can. :)
     
  11. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Just for the sake of killing a few minutes, let's take a look at "Oh, f*** yeah.";)

    As it stands, "Oh, f*** yeah" is just agreeing with a sentiment.

    "Let's go smoke some fatties!"
    "Oh, f*** yeah!"

    But then you add a comma: "Oh, f***, yeah."

    Now the phrase is completely different. Now the guy is saying "Oh" like he just realised something or he understands. Then he says "f***" as an exclamation - he's not happy with this realisation. Maybe it was something bad, or he's just upset that he didn't get it sooner. Whatever. Then he says "yeah" to express his agreement.

    "Oh, f***, yeah" = realisation/comprehension --> exclamation --> agreement.

    It's just yet another example of the versatility of f*** and why it's such an excellent word. "F*** yeah!" (<--and that's just a plain old exclamation, so no comma is needed)

    (here's to hoping my post isn't an infraction:p)
     
  12. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I've also written it, much like I say it, "Oh m'god."

    Or if there is definite emphases on it, "OH MY GOD!"

    Some times I shorten it, to just "God, such and such" Or "Good god, blah, blah, blah." Or I substitute the whole phrase with something else entirely.
     
  13. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    This is an interesting topic.

    In a normal situation, where the phrase is being used as frustration or light surprise, then I'd personally write it as "Oh my god." There are situations, however, where I'd use the em-dash because it shows that the surprise or anger is much more trying than usual. "Oh--my--God." Personally, I'd prefer to use the "Oh. My. God." version because it accentuates the situation more clearly. I honestly think that it depends on the context in which you're using the phrase as well as the way you intend for the character using it to come across.

    ~Lynn
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    I know a comma goes after words like Oh, but what if it ruins the flow of speech you are trying to achieve?

    both are wrong, if it's an exclamation... the exclamation is properly written like this:

    Oh, my God!

    there's no good reason to put a comma after 'my' unless, in the second example, you're actually addressing god, saying 'Oh, my!' to him, as you would if he was named jim...

    no, it still needs a comma after 'oh'...

    not if i was your editor!... the only place that would be ok is in the catholic 'act of contrition'...
     
  15. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I won't argue directly with maia; that would just be silly. But I do wonder if this is one of those old rules now on its way out. I mean, as Arch already demonstrated with his quotes, it has been written every possible way in published material by respectable authors.

    I would normally conform to the rules, but this is an awkward one. The comma is misleading because there's no pause in that particular phrase.

    As I understand it, if you're writing the dialogue for a character with bad grammar, the sentence is just going to have bad grammar. How do I represent a character who does not pause if I simply must put commas in certain places? The commas falsely indicate a pause, which would make it impossible. . . If I say that the character didn't pause, but then I include commas in the dialogue, I seem to be contradicting myself and making no sense as a narrator.

    I think this is one of those few rules I'm happy to see broken. . .
     
  16. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Yeah, since "Oh my god" is such a familiar colloquialism (rather than a proper sentence/exclamation) and is rarely, if ever, written in the grammatically correct way, I would be very hesitant to add a comma to it at all...it just reminds me of when adult writers try to sound "cool" and end up butchering it...in fact, IMO, adding a comma to the phrase would be doing exactly that....the only possible exception I could think of would be if you were writing in a non-contemporary setting, and then I'm not sure the phrase would make sense at all...
     
  17. Jonesy
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    I personally would write it as Omigod. And pass over the dilemma of where to place a comma :).
     
  18. Sound of Silence
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    'Oh' and 'my god' are what's known as 'interjections', expressions of emotion that have no grammatical tie to a clause. As 'oh my god' (single expression) and 'oh god). And interjections are usually seperated from the rest of the sentence with a comma to help express that emotion and lack of tie to the clause: 'Hello, my name's Jay.' As for where the comma goes with 'oh my god'...? It just depends on what effect you're after:

    Oh, (with comma, to emphasise the full extent of the emotion) my god. Also as 'Oh - my frigging god', 'oh...(long pause) my god.'

    without comma:

    'Oh my god', makes the expression of emotion less dramatic as the one with the comma.

    As for right and wrong usage? Who's to say. They are expressions of emotion that portray character, it just depends on which type of character you're portraying, I suppose. A young girl would sound like she's running them all together 'ohmygod, ohmygod...' as she screams excitement. A tired mum would probably use a sigh and pause the interjections 'Oh...my god.'

    I think that's it anyway...
     
  19. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    Just use OMG like everybody else?.
     
  20. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    What novel have you ever seen OMG in?
     
  21. EyezForYou
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    The one where the character is talking on a message board.
     
  22. littlebluelie
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    It's simple if you keep in mind that commas are pauses in speech. Since in most situations a person would say "oh my God" without pausing, there is no need for commas.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i beg to differ... in writing for publication, proper punctuation is a necessity, whether it's dialog, or narrative... just ask any professional editor...
     
  24. EyezForYou
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    Again, it depends on the connotation and the context. It can be both or it can be neither or it can be one or the other.
     
  25. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think the comma after Oh, is standard, and it is grammatical, but I've noticed that in some novels that won prestigious awards the comma did not appear in the phrase, "Oh, my god."

    I think I'll stick to what is grammatically correct, though.

    Another thing I noticed is that phrases like, "Oh, God," "Oh, my God," and the like, didn't appear at all in most every Nobel Prize winning author's novels I searched for them in.

    Maybe their characters just weren't the type to say such things.
     

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