1. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Question about introductory phrases

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by architectus, Apr 10, 2009.

    There are times I doubt when something is an introductory word, phrase, or clause. Is there a clear deductive way for me to know for sure with any example?

    Here is the rule: Use a comma after an introductory word, phrase, or clause that comes before a main clause.

    When it is simple, I don't doubt.

    Finally, he hit the ball.
    Despite being slow, he past the exam.
    As they walked down the street, Jim wrapped his arm around Megan.

    Here are examples when I doubt, and I hated doubting.

    If she were stronger she would do it herself. (Should there be a comma after stronger?)

    "If I understood how much you loved her, I wouldn't have done it." (Is the comma right?)

    Instead he yelled for Venna as if he were the pack leader of wolves scolding one of his cubs. (Should there be a comma after instead? It is when it feels like it reads differently with the comma that I doubt.)

    Making a high pitched sound, Michael snapped at her. (The comma here is correct, right? I have this little bit of doubt. I want to remove that doubt. I want to always now with 100% certianity when this rule applies. Making a high pitched sound feels like an introfuctory clause. Ah, dang it. But at the same time it feels like it reads better without the comma to me.)

    During their exchanged, I felt out of place, a third wheel on a broken truck. (Should there be a comma after exchanged?)

    Due to our age and unique brains we learn to influence nature more than others. (This is another example that feels right to me without the comma after brains.)
     
  2. Riqi
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    Riqi New Member

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    I tend to use a comma to denote how I want a sentence emphasised. Read it in your mind, how you want that phrase to be heard, or said, or whatever. If there is a short pause after one of the words, for example, in the "If she were stronger" phrase, it could quite successfully be used with or without a comma.

    If you want the emphasis to be on her being stronger, place the comma to insinuate a break in the speech. If you don't hear any pause when you read it back to yourself, perhaps leave it out.

    I admit to not being the best at using comma's, but I just tend to follow this rule. If my explanation is confusing, drop me a message and I'll try to explain it better.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    If she were stronger she would do it herself. (Should there be a comma after stronger?)

    ...yes...

    "If I understood how much you loved her, I wouldn't have done it." (Is the comma right?)

    ...yes...

    Instead he yelled for Venna as if he were the pack leader of wolves scolding one of his cubs. (Should there be a comma after instead? It is when it feels like it reads differently with the comma that I doubt.)

    ...yes...

    Making a high pitched sound, Michael snapped at her. (The comma here is correct, right?

    ...yes... but the sentence makes no sense... he couldn't make a high-pitched sound and snap at her, at the same time...


    During their exchanged, I felt out of place, a third wheel on a broken truck. (Should there be a comma after exchanged?)

    ...yes, but it should be 'exchange' with no 'd'... and the final clause would make better sense starting with 'like'...

    Due to our age and unique brains we learn to influence nature more than others. (This is another example that feels right to me without the comma after brains.)

    ...should be a comma there...

    ...and, btw, 'past' in your first examples should be 'passed'... hope this helps...

    hugs, maia
     
  4. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    When it comes to comma placement, this is my tip. Read to the part of the sentence where you think a comma *might* go and no further. Does it sound like it is okay by itself? If so, you don't need a comma and can end it and start a new line. If it doesn't, you need a comma.

    For example, "Due to our age and unique brains" doesn't make sense by itself, therefore you have to add an independent clause onto the end of it. "Due to our age and unique brains, we learn to influence nature more than others."

    Hope this helps some :)

    ~Lynn
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Thanks Maia, and Lynn. I think I got it now. I don't know why I still make the error of typing past instead of passed. I usually catch it when I do, though.
     
  6. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    One of those (if she were stronger) I am slightly uncertain of.
    I can read it just as well, without doubt, if I omit the comma. The comma there seems somewhat superfluous, or pointless.
    Say that aloud. Do you say, "If she were stronger (pause) she would do it, herself," or do you say, "If she were stronger she would do it, herself."

    If you put 'then' after 'stronger,' can you omit the comma?

    And for some reason, I want to put a comma before 'herself'.
     
  7. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    "If she were stronger" doesn't stand by itself so it has to have a comma after it in order to make sense. You could also put a comma before herself as it's technically an unneeded word. E.g. "If she were stronger, she would do it, herself." It would make more sense to simply say, "If she were stronger, she would do it." I mean it's pretty redundant to say she'd do it herself since the first clause already indicates that it would be her doing it...so yes, it would still be grammatically correct to put a comma before herself although it would break up the natural flow. I personally would just omit the word 'herself' entirely.

    And if you put 'then' after stronger, the sentence becomes awkward.. "If she were stronger then she would do it herself." I personally dislike this version but I *think* it's grammatically correct the way I wrote it.

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

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    the comma is needed after 'stronger' because all that comes before it is clearly a qualifying, prepositional clause...

    the comma before 'herself' isn't needed and, in fact, is probably an improper use of a comma...
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Lynn, you're correct. It would be better without the word herself.
     

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