Comma Rules

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by wynn, Aug 13, 2011.

  1. Telemachus Rex Protesting Mod Stupidity Registered Senior Member


    As they say, a comma is the difference between:

    "Let's eat grandma!" and

    "Let's eat, grandma!"
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Exactly the same as a pause in speech.
    Or the famous dedication by an author at the front of his book: "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God."

    (This is an urban legend, there is no such dedication in any published book. But it's a good one.

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  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    You will go you will return never in war will you perish.

    remains ambiguous without the commas or pauses.

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  7. Pineal Banned Banned

    Not in English either. I used to try to follow that rule...what a mess.
  8. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Never heard of bhautshastra. भौतशास्त्र but a lot about भौतिकशास्त्र which means physics. Please be careful when using foreign language terms.
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Speaking of comma rules, lets not forget the Oxford comma

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    भौतिक अर्थात भौतिक तत्त्व संदर्भी। विज्ञान में भौतिक शब्द का तात्पर्य किसी पदार्थ या पर्यावरण के गुणों से होता है। विज्ञान की इस शाखा को भौतिक शास्त्र कहा जाता है।भौतिक
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You're referring to the controversial placement of a comma before "and" in a list of three or more components, usually called the "serial comma."

    "Do you promise to love, honor and cherish your new bride?" -- or -- "Do you promise to love, honor, and cherish your new bride?"

    "Blood, sweat and tears?" -- or -- "Blood, sweat, and tears?"

    "Among these inalienable rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," -- or -- "... life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." (This is an abstract from our Declaration of Independence to highlight the topic of discussion, not an accurate quote.)

    Style manuals go back and forth on this question about once per generation. When I was in school in the 1950s we were told very forcefully to leave out the serial comma if at all possible, which appeared in all of our older textbooks. Then in the 1980s it started popping up again.

    Today it is increasingly rare in American publications, but I also notice a lack of consistency and very little discussion of the issue. Newspapers avoid it, since every square millimeter of space they can cut out of an article represents one square millimeter of space they can sell to an advertiser. But even though newspapers are arguably the greatest single influence on modern writing style, motives like this make their authority a little untrustworthy. After all, these are the same guys who once wrote execrable headlines like "Hugo Chavez' Latest Tantrum" in order to save the space of the lost S!

    As a professional editor, I follow the original, basic rule for comma usage: The comma is a written representation of a pause in speech. If you could speak the sentence without a pause, with no fear of being misunderstood, then you don't need the comma in the written version of the sentence either.

    Therefore the exceptions should be limited to obvious situations in which a misunderstanding is possible. The two most common of these are:
    • Long sentences in which the components of the sequence are so complex that it's not easy to figure out where one ends and the next begins without a pause in speech or a comma in the written version. This is common in technical writing.
    • Shorter sequences in which the specific components create ambiguity. The most famous (and amusing) example of this is an urban legend, an author's dedication that does not actually appear in any published book:
      To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.​
    I find it amusing that many Americans refer to the serial comma as "the Oxford comma," implying that the stuffy old Brits cling to an archaic tradition while we snazzy modern Yanks write for the Space Age.

    I have a British friend who calls it "the Harvard comma."

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