1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Punctuation help

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, Mar 1, 2016.

    I'm using the Hemmingway app to help me work on the SPAG issues with Not Pink. It's pretty helpful. Not great though. It can get confused over stupid issues. So I have to use a lot of my own judgement. :rolleyes:
    Here's one sentence it highlighted as difficult to read.

    For a moment he just glares as if his eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict knowing he alone will pay the price to have me fixed.

    I left it comma free but it seems to need a comma I'm just not sure where. I was thinking -

    For a moment he just glares as if his eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict, knowing he alone will pay the price to have me fixed.
     
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  2. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I tried that app on a bunch of things and it found almost all my sentences to be either hard or very hard to read. From what I understood it was designed to encourage short sentences like Hemingway. Having never read his stuff I'm not really sure but I wasn't all that impressed with the program.
    As for your sentence, the one with the comma looks acceptable but I would probably use a period where you have the comma and then adjust the second half into a complete sentence.
     
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  3. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm sorry, I can't help it: Is your POV character an intact dog? If I knew what was meant by "to have me fixed," I could give a possibly-sensible opinion on the punctuation.

    Sorry, I'm terrible. I'll go away now. :whistle:
     
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  4. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Hi peachalulu, strictly speaking your sentence if fine without commas. It's just difficult to read because it's so long. If you're shooting for Hemingway, you should probably chop it up. It goes like this:

    For a moment,... - You could put a comma here to set off this adverbial phrase, but it's not necessary because the adverbial phrase is one of time and very short (short is usually considered to be about five words or less).

    ...he just glares, as if his eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict... - This one is also not necessary. 'As' here is a conjunction in the same category as words like 'while', 'because', and 'so'. When the phrase it introduces comes after the main clause (the main idea in the sentence), it doesn't need a comma unless you think a comma would help the sentence's readability. Look at the sentence before this one. The 'When the phrase...' bit (which is a subordinate clause) finishes with a comma. Then comes the main clause (the main idea) 'it doesn't need...'. Then there's another subordinate clause (an extra idea) introduced by the conjunction 'unless', which doesn't need a comma, although I could throw one in if I felt like it.

    ...inflict, knowing... - Again a comma is not necessary if you think the information in 'knowing...' is essential information (this bit is a relative clause). The problem with your sentence is that because you've got that 'as if his eyes...' subordinate clause between the main clause 'he just glares' and the relative clause 'knowing...', you've kind of forgotten the first bit by the time you get to the last bit. The problem is compounded because the subordinate clause 'as if his eyes...' contains another relative clause, 'he dare not inflict', and the relative clause, 'knowing..., contains another subordinate clause, 'he alone...'. Which means in total you've got: adverbial phrase, main clause, subordinate clause containing a relative clause, relative clause containing a subordinate clause. This makes for a very complex sentence. Charles Dickens would be proud of you.

    Anyway, no commas are necessary but you could throw in a bunch if you wanted to:


    For a moment, he just glares, as if his eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict, knowing he alone will pay the price to have me fixed.

    Although I'm sure none of us would put them all in as I've done above.

    I realize that I've written an impenetrable wall of grammatical waffle, but I'm in a bit of a hurry. Feel free to ask for clarification if you want it. And good luck. My brain hurts just having vomited all this. I hope reading it does you no permanent damage.


    Oh, just to put this to bed, you could do this:

    For a moment he just glares. His eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict. But he knows he alone will pay the price to have me fixed.

    And Hemingway would rest easy in his grave.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
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  5. NobodySpecial
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    NobodySpecial Active Member

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    At the risk of drawing the ire of the anti-parenthetical set I might have used two commas. But I also concede I am not the most skilled of writers and I am certainly no Hemmingway.



    For a moment he just glares, as if his eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict, knowing he alone will pay the price to have me fixed.
     
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  6. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is what I'd have suggested. You can take out the sub-clause in the middle without really changing the meaning:

    For a moment he just glares, knowing he alone will pay the price to have me fixed.
     
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  7. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    This is how I might do it. First, I would kill the word 'just.' That has almost no place in writing, unless you are complaining about something not being 'just.' I would also want to use past tense. It feels odd without it...

    "For a moment he glared, as if his eyes could do the damage he dared not inflict, knowing he alone would pay the price to have me fixed."
     
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  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Lol! He's a robot.
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Thanks everyone! I didn't know the Hemmingway app liked short sentences I thought it was the same as Grammarly. I like it because it highlights the sentences something Grammarly doesn't do.

    Wow, how do you keep all this stuff straight, Wayjor? I read grammar books but after a while my head starts to swim and I wonder how much knowledge has sunk in. Perhaps not much cause to me it's just a whopper of a sentence. Or maybe a little cause I really didn't cram this one with commas like I usually do.

    and .... Just is a bad word? I've heard someone say this before but they never really explained why. I'm using it here because the robot is remarking that his owner is just staring when usually his owner would be hitting.
     
  10. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    I was going to give you a flippant answer - something about overexposure and the wiring in my brain - but then you got me thinking, and I thought a decent answer might be more helpful. I don't know exactly how I keep it all straight, and I certainly don't get it right all the time, but the trick is to focus on the meaning.

    As soon as you start thinking about grammar as an arbitrary set of rules that must be followed dogmatically, I think most people tune out pretty quick. Keep tight hold of what it is you're trying to communicate, and all those rules and guidelines start to make some kind of sense.

    For example (shit, look at me, I'm off on another grammar rant, apologies all round), the relative clause thing, there are two kinds. The first one gives essential information that's necessary to understand the sentence (it's called a restrictive relative clause). The second kind gives extra information that isn't (non-restrictive).

    1st kind) My sister who lives in Paris has two kids. - No commas because the relative bit is essential: I'm talking about my sister who lives in Paris not my sister who lives in New York. Conclusion: because this sentence has no commas, you know that I have more than one sister.

    2nd kind) My sister, who lives in Paris, has two kids. - Commas around the relative bit 'who lives in Paris'. You could take that part out, and the sentence would still make sense: 'My sister has two kids.' Conclusion: with no other information to go on, you would be right to think I have only one sister if I said this to you.

    So, that's how I keep it all straight. Focus on the meaning, and the punctuation takes care of itself.

    While I'm at it, I'll chip in on the 'Just is a bad word' question. I can't speak for @Mike Kobernus, but I get the impression that some people dislike adverbs on principle. I'm sure you've heard the don't-use-an-adverb-when-a-more-consice-verb-will-do-the-job argument. I guess the problem arises when you take that to the extreme and start banning adverbs on principle. I think any word is fair game if it serves your story.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
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  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that's a legitimate use of the word 'just'. However, I think that this specific sentence is stronger without it. I'm not sure how to make those two opinions negotiate a settlement.
     
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  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Exactly.

    I wish there was a grammar book that posted the rules and then samples from writer's works breaking the rules.

    Oh weird - I never thought of the just as an adverb?! No wonder it gets so much heat.

    I think I will clip it Chickenfreak - even temporarily to see how I like it. One good thing about clipping is it focuses on the glare and doesn't let the sentence get ahead of itself. Which can seem contradictory to present tense.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I think the word 'just,' as @peachalulu used it, is perfectly valid. It doesn't tell the reader that he's glaring, it tells the reader that he's doing nothing else BUT glare. Using 'just' in that sentence depicts a more frozen moment than leaving it out would do.

    Please, folks, please. Don't get the idea that there are perfectly good words in the language that you shouldn't be using. Of course you shouldn't use any words out of habit, or employ them as weasel words that don't make any difference. But by all means do use words like 'just,' as well as adverbs, adjectives—whatever—if they create a stronger image in the reader's mind.

    I also agree that the single comma after 'inflict' works just fine. It creates a pause where the narrator expands on the meaning of the glare, but it doesn't overly complicate the sentence.

    I think peachalulu's instincts already work well for her, but it's also great that she's studying her craft.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
  14. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, a sentient robot?

    Here's your original: "For a moment he just glares as if his eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict, knowing he alone will pay the price to have me fixed."

    I wonder if the problem isn't the punctuation, but what Strunk and White would call trying to pack in too many ideas into one sentence. That, and the negative construction "dare not."

    I'd try something like

    "For a moment he just glares, as if his eyes could fry my circuits and crumple my [insert name of space-age material] shell. But he doesn't dare, since he alone would bear the price to have me fixed."​

    Or

    "If he dared, he would crush me to scrap. But he's the one who would have to pay to get me fixed, so all he can do is glare."​

    I think the problem is that the participle "knowing" is so far from its referent "he." That, and the almost- suggestion that "he" is doing your robot damage with his eyes and at the same time is not. The thought isn't clear. Does your robot have feelings that can be hurt? Can he/she/it be intimidated? If not, the "he" of this sentence is only relieving his feelings with his glare, and feeling frustration that he's not harming the robot at all.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
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  15. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    You raise some interesting points Catrin. I never really thought of the robot as having feelings but allowed the language to swing so that it appears that he does. I like to straddle the idea. Because it goes both ways. Is he worried he'll be broke or is he more concerned that if his owner risks a beating he could be hurt both physically or financially and while the robot is out of commission their would be no one to fill up his owner's ice trays? I leave it up to the reader.

    His intimidation would be to alleviate the situation before his owner lost his cool.
     
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  16. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, that sounds a lot less formal. And more specific.

    What you have, " . . . he alone will pay the price to have me fixed," is grand, ominous--- and general. May I take it that in your story's world there are a) robot servants, and b) that the owners are liable to corporal and financial punishment from the government if they damage them? The sentence and the thought might be clearer if that clause went in the direction of specificity, as in, " . . . knowing the government has ways of damaging him if he damages me--- and he'd still have to pay to get me repaired."
     
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  17. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    For fun, I just now tried the Hemingway app. It didn't like my writing at all. Well, as Papa Hemingway said about his critics, "The hell with them."

    :twisted:
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2016
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  18. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    "For a moment he just glares as if his eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict, knowing he alone will pay the price to have me fixed."

    I'm in the boat where I came to the fixed dog interpretation so make note of that. Aside from the grammar, the idea confuses me. "his eyes could do all the damage he dare not inflict" That is the part for me that doesn't read smoothly. I picture his eyes as being apart from him like a vicious dog on a leash with an owner holding it back. "He was a kind man, but his eyes, they could shoot lasers at you without warning!" I get its more of "From his glare I could tell if not for the situation at hand he would inflict some serious damage." It took me some thinking to get to that interpretation. Basically, I don't think his eyes should be the thing that could inflict damage. If you want them to be use some metaphor or idiom. But I'm not an expert, so if it reads fine for everyone else don't worry about it.

    Hey, Hemingway liked my post except for the first sentence and the words smoothly and basically because Heminway hates all adverbs. "2 adverbs. Aim for 0 or fewer." Next time I'll try for -1.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
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