The proper usage of commas?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by wegs, Jul 25, 2013.

  1. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    If you speak like that then, in written English, it should probably appear as:
    "If... you... pause... between... each..." etc.
    Or even "If. You. Pause. Between." etc.
    I would suggest it is never done with a comma.

    If you're not pausing after the semi-colon then I suggest you're speaking quite oddly. The pause at a semi-colon is not far removed from a full stop (or period, for those across the pond), and certainly (at least how I speak) it is more of a significant pause than a comma.

    [Qupte]I could write that also with a pause (for breath).

    i.e My wife walks very slow down the hill, (pause) she has flat feet.[/quote]I think you have these two (the comma and the semi-colon) the wrong way round with regard length of pause (if that is how you are judging which to use).
    Using a comma would be wrong, in my opinion.

    It's a start, but one needs at least to know that a semi-colon offers more of pause (again, if that is how you wish to judge things) than a comma.

    Unfortunately I don't think it is.
    How do you suggest using commas when you pause for emphasis? Can you provide an example?

    If you only ever want to write as though you're in sixth-grade.
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  3. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    @ Sarkus,

    Maybe you can learn that periods are to end sentences, and not used for pauses.

    so seriously?

    If is a sentence?
    You is a sentence?
    Pause is a sentence?
    Between is a sentence?

    I said a person could write a sentence with commas after each word to create pauses like my example; I did not say it would be the best constructed sentence in the world.

    Em dash is meant for longer pauses and would be better for pausing, but the OP wants to know how and where to use a Comma. Not an Em Dash.

    i.e. "I think - well - whatever"

    So, if, I, write, a, sentence, using, a, comma, between, each, word, it, makes, the, reader, pause, between, each, word, and, also, demonstrates, you, could, use, the, comma, anywhere.

    Using the comma in that manner or in the wrong spots can make the sentence sound distorted.

    i.e. "So if I write a sentence using a, comma between each word it, makes the, reader pause... ( "..." means continued)

    So insert it where you would pause for breath or even for emphasis when you talk normally.

    The semicolon adds a pause and is used to join sentences that could stand alone but are related in subject. I thought it could be done without pausing, but when speaking a pause is there.

    "I have one word that can show emphasis quite well, coma, but you already knew that."

    Can you see any paused emphasis in the line above?

    Want more examples?

    I'd be happy to show you more examples, however, I think you might get it now.

    See; I did it again. Another example right above this line.
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    You need to read more.
    It is a fairly common literary technique.
    As said: read more.
    You also didn't say that it would be a confusing mess nor did you say that noone actually uses commas for such, favouring the options I outlined above.

    You provided an example, which I considered flawed and explained what would be better for your example.
    Are we now not allowed to correct other people's examples if we find them flawed???
    It's a confusing mess and ungrammatical. Just because you can write it doesn't make it correct or appropriate.
    Again, you use the comma ungrammatically and inappropriately in order to make a point about how you might use it, how noone else does, and you think you are answering the OP helpfully?
    So are you apologising??

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    It should be: "I have one word that can show emphasis quite well: 'comma', but you already knew that." (the '' are optional but helps avoid confusion).
    So care to try again.
    I only see ungrammatical usage of the comma in your example.

    You did? What were you trying to emphasise? The word "however"???
    But hey, whatever gets you through your day.
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I thought I covered that. Thanks for covering for me.

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    For starters, because there's no pause in speaking that sentence out loud.

    This is not proper grammar. You can't use "after" as an adverb. You just can't. No editor will let that stand. Use another word that is an adverb, like "afterward."

    Yes, I know, "Jack fell down and broke his crown/And Jill came tumbling after." But we generally don't cite nursery rhymes as authoritative examples of the Queen's English.

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    That's just too easy to debunk. Pick any page at random from his own publication, and you'll probably find a sentence that proves him wrong before you're halfway through.

    That's how Indo-European became Proto-Germanic, how Proto-Germanic became Old High German, how Old High German became Anglo-Saxon, how Anglo-Saxon became Middle English, and how Middle English became Modern English.

    Most people don't pause before "and" because it's not necessary for comprehension.

    Never put a comma in a construction like that. When you use "per," you are expressing the exact idea that you're trying to express. The comma is redundant. The semicolon is correct since these are two complete clauses without a conjunction.

    This is okay. It would also be okay without the comma since the "and" is there. Most people would write the comma because if they said it aloud there would be a little pause there.

    This is okay. But I would write it the way that was not one of your options:

    The cost for the project will be $10K salary per consultant; the project will last 48 weeks.

    Well for starters, ALWAYS spell out numbers less than 21. Bob, Jane and Nancy came in fourth, first and tenth place, respectively.

    The exception would be if there were a mixture of large and small numbers. Then it's okay to use numerals for all of them. And don't use the serial comma, ever, unless it's required for clarity such as the Ayn Rand joke.

    First, as someone notes later on, you should use an ellipsis there. Although the comma suggests a pause in speech, it also serves a grammatical function. There's no grammatical need for commas here. So use the ellipsis, which specifically represents a long (and usually spurious) pause in speech.

    No, that is wrong. If there's no conjunction between two complete clauses (each has a subject and verb), then you have to use a semicolon, to represent the pause that you would certainly use in speech.

    Unfortunately, internet-speak has made that rule untrue.

    It started with something like: Best. Hamburger. Ever.

    Now it's: Dumbest. Mistake. Ever. ... Longest. Commercial. Ever. ... Worst. Verdict. Ever.

    But an em dash is more commonly used in edited writing as an alternative to parentheses:

    I walked to the grocery store--a long walk in ninety-degree weather--and discovered that I left my shopping list at home.

    Your example simply begs for ellipses: I think... well... whatever.

    Ellipses have many functions. The most common is to confess that much of a quote has been eliminated due to irrelevance. But in this case it serves another common function: explaining that the speaker's mind is wandering so he's not making much sense.

    No. It needs a semicolon: I'd be happy to show you more examples; however, I think you might get it now.
  8. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    So, imagine a world without commas.

    Someone sent me a note today; he does work with bees.
    Well, he wrote...

    "I'm studying honey."

    I had to do a double take as I thought it had a comma between "studying" and "honey."

    Oh my, what a vastly different sentence it would have been, eh?

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  9. Robittybob1 Banned Banned

    I'm studying honey, Honey.
  10. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    @ Fraggle Rocker,

    I had said in my earliest post your advice was the soundest, but now I am disagreeing with myself.

    you argued
    Maybe you should correct this punctuation guide for doing the same thing.


    So if I made a mistake using a comma for emphasis so are many others who follow this guide.

    I have also heard people say writing does not NEED a semi-colon at all, and yet you seem to think it is NEEDED. I do not think it is NEEDED and that a coma used in place of it is also correct in 100% of the situations, but not as tidy.

    your "..." is good for missing information at the end of or during a sentence.

    i.e. "I live at ... Hillcrest Road" - The missing information being the digits in my address.

    or "I was surprised to see him return..." - where the missing information is an unfinished thought that trails off.

    Let's look at Wikipedia... ( <<< see what I did there. lol)

    It does say it can indicate pause (uncommonly it also says), so I was wrong about that, but I think it is rarely used for a pause. Missing information seems to be the main use.

    like in a quote,
    "Roses are red, violets are blue ..." - if you wish to shorten the quote.

    I'd be happier with a single link to where anyone has used this device aside from a guide on using ellipsis, and if it was used as a literary device I would think the pause represents unfinished thoughts (trailing off), and then continuation.

    You were also right that my example begged for elipses.
    " I think... well... whatever.'
    This is because "I think ... " is an unfinished thought trailing off, followed by "Well ..." which is the same thing. I would not think of it as a standard pause. I think the Em dash is fine for that in most cases.

    @ Fraggle
    I will concede the ellipsis point, but you you were wrong on my first point about using a comma for emphasis.


    Is "<3" a word also?

    Is "I <3 U" a real phrase now.

    I published a book using all one letter words or that when said one after another sound like a word. i.e. "DV8" = "deviate" or "NRG" = "Energy"
    so I have no problems with acceptance of internet slang, but had not heard of this.

    Do you have any external data or samples about this?
    I am skeptical any intelligent person would use that as a device.

    I still would not think it belongs in literature, especially to represent a pause.
  11. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member


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    @ kwhilborn... The first sentence from "the guide" makes no sense.

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    unless I'm missing something.

    I use <3 a lot, but certainly wouldn't find it acceptable in a professional pub or literature. The Internet, texting, etc...has made us all a little lazier with our communications.

    Acronyms have become overused because of this. "Brb," "ATM," (which I loathe), "NP," "TTYL," etc...

    It is irritating when I see it in business writing. Time to start acting like grown ups, everyone.
    I saw "peeps" used in a business email one day. I was like huh? Fine for the Internet, "hey peeps," but not business.

    Just my $02.

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  12. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    @ wegs,
    That is just one guide of many and I did not write it. There was a link to entire guide, but there are many.
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Do you not see the difference between your original sentence and the example in the "guide" you linked to?
    Yes, both use the same word ("however") but whereas the guide uses it as a transitional word within an otherwise single sentence (i.e. remove the ", however," and it is a grammatically correct sentence), yours is being used to connect two distinct sentences that should be separated with at least a semi-colon (if not a full-stop).
    As such your initial example is incorrect in using just commas.

    And please start spelling it correctly.
    Commas are punctuation marks.
    Comas are what we term a state of long-term unconsciousness.
    You've seriously never seen it used like that in any novel you've ever read?
    Okay - let's see...
    First book off my shelf: "Starship Troopers" by Robert Heinlein. Just to select a few in the first chapter...
    Page 9: "The Lieutenant told me before he bought it to tell you that he will always have his eye on you every minute... and that he expects your names to shine!"
    Page 11: Almost at once I felt the capsule twist and sway, then steady down so that my weight was on my back... weight that built up quickly until I was at my full weight.
    Page 12: The turbulence brakes of the second shell bit in and the ride got rough... and still rougher as they burned off one at a time and the second shell began to go to pieces.

    Want me to go on?

    As for using ellipses after every word to stress the importance etc:
    Let's pick another book off my shelf: "The Rediscovery of Man" by Cordwainer Smith.
    Page 9: Martel mouthed his words, so he could be sure that Vomact followed. "I... am... under... the... wire. Unfit... for... Space!"
    Page 18: "They won't have to work in the up-and-out! There will be no more great pain - think of it! No... more... great... pain!"

    And with regard using full-stops after every word - it is an increasingly common literary device, spread by the internet.
    You can be as skeptical as you want about its usage, but don't make the mistake of thinking that intelligent people don't or won't use it. Your comment in this regard is nothing but a veiled effort to make yourself seem among the intelligent by associating intelligence with people, like you, that don't use such a device.
  14. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    @ Sarkus,

    If you had read my previous post you would understand that I had conceded that ellipses were indeed used for pauses.

    So you just spent time writing that last post for nothing.
  15. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Seems i've missed a few boats since yesterday.
    Good ol' commas...
    Now, somebody ask about apostrophes: their misuse really annoys me!
  16. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Let me remind you of what you actually wrote, along with your concession, even though it is also within my previous post:
    To that I posted examples from 2 classic sci-fi novels where such (ellipses) were used in such a way other than unfinished thoughts trailing off etc.
    They are not hyperlinks, but they are links nonetheless.
    So providing what you ask for is now a waste of time??

    Secondly, is the only thing you read in my last post the matter of ellipses?
    You didn't see any comments regarding the differences between your example and an example in the "guide" that you felt proved your point?
    Or how putting full stops after every word is becoming an increasingly common literary device due to the internet?

    And even if you find the post of no value, it is still of value for those following this thread wishing to understand a few things.
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    And me!
    Some people simply don't care about them, and put them anywhere they feel they should be.
    But it irks me when someone uses them incorrectly.
    (Although I probably still misuse them on occasion inadvertently)
  18. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Why doe's they're misuse annoy you?
    (Actually I'm annoying myself with that. It's awful)

    With the careful use of commas, can you make up a sentence which includes 5 "ands" consecutively?
    and and and and and

    If you've seen this before, please don't post the answer.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The sentences are not equivalent in syntax. In the Sandhills example, the second clause is subordinate because it begins with "if." In your original example, both clauses are primary. When you combine two primary clauses into a single sentence, you have to link them either by a coordinating conjunction (such as and, but, or) or a semicolon. The "however" only modifies the first clause, so it must come before the semicolon.

    These people are simply wrong. Never take their advice again. When in doubt, refer to Strunk & White.

    Presumably it represents a non-verbal sonic clue, such as an exceptionally long pause (longer than a period would represent, probably even a paragraph break), a gradual fade-out of volume, or any of a zillion other auditory clues that are outside the realm of language (such as pitch, exaggerated stress, faux foreign accent or speech impediment, whining and baby talk). This is arguably the main reason that we must not attempt to make our writing be a word-for-word transcription of speech. It doesn't have the same bandwidth.

    Wikipedia is written by people like me. I've written several articles and edited dozens. So don't put too much stock in its authority.

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    Sure. That's a universal editorial convention. So is replacing text in the original with new text [in brackets] to indicate that you've changed it to make it more understandable out of context. In my quote of your post above, I replaced "it" with "[the ellipsis]" because the referent is too far back in this post to still be on the reader's mind.

    Quotes of this sort are not often printed because they take up a lot of space that could be more profitably devoted to advertising, without giving very much information. So America's editorial community probably doesn't think about them very often and there may not be a consensus. Nonetheless, as I noted earlier, paired em-dashes are well established as a sort of parenthetical expression that has been elevated to a somewhat higher level of consciousness than parentheses indicate: the data inside the parentheses is usually provided by the writer to aid in comprehension by adding background, whereas the data inside the em-dashes is usually part of the original quote. I'd be loath to use them in a new way and risk confusing my readers.

    Sure, "I think ..." represents an unfinished thought trailing off, but it also represents a long pause, which is one of the universally understood meanings of the ellipsis.


    I have no idea what you're talking about. How is the "less than" sign supposed to be read in the pitiful argot of the text-messaging retard? I don't have the texting option on any of my phones. Surely you all know it's because I'm incapable of expressing a thought in less than 140 characters.

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    Oh, I get it: a heart on its side? Is this a heart that is in the process of being broken? Or is it attempting intercourse? Inquiring minds want to know.

    I will always abide by the advice in the old animated show "Boondocks."
    Internet slang could be regarded as a cant to exclude non-native speakers. Their brains will instantly expand those character strings using the names of the letters and the verbal forms of the numbers in their first language. To a native speaker of Spanish, DV8 is "they-vay-ocho" and NRG is "ennay-eray-khay."

    When I see Г П У, even though it's Russian my brain reads the names of the letters in Greek: Gamma Pi Ypsilon. This makes no sense at all. I don't read it as Gay-pay-oo so it takes me a minute to realize that it's the abbreviation for Gosudarstvennoye Politicheskoye Upravlenie, "State Political Directorate," the tyrannical, licensed-to-kill secret police under Stalin. As a math major I learned the Greek alphabet many years before Russian.

    On the other hand, texpeak has already begun to infiltrate spoken English. I've heard people say Ell-Oh-Ell to mean "that's pretty funny," and Oh-Em-Gee to avoid committing blasphemy in the presence of their Pentecostal grandparents.

    This is no different from the now-dictionary-standard pronunciation of "laser" for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation."

    So now you're calling me unintelligent?

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  20. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    @ fraggle Rocker,
    I believe I was referring to people who use a period between words to show pauses. I still refuse to believe it is a normal practice used by writers. I think that much was clear. I have no knowledge of whether or not you would write that way, and you basically stated it was introduced by the internet as a short for ellipse.

    I also said I am skeptical Intelligent people use that device. This means I doubt it, but am open to be proven wrong.
  21. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Lol @ " referring to people"

    You were given excellent examples above, kwhilborn. So, it is merely at this point, that you are not comfortable with using a period other than to end a sentence with it.

    Your own personal discomfort with using a period other than to end sentences, doesn't mean others shouldn't use it or are somehow "less than" intelligent who use it to emphasis pauses.


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    I've made an outlier observation on this site, that intelligence of another MUST BE low when someone else doesn't understand why he or she thinks a particular way. :-}

    @ Fraggle... The "<3" is an unfortunate invention needed by those of us who are whimsical in nature, and in our writing. (but strictly should be reserved for texting and the net) That said, if there were a preset "heart" symbol in phones and/or operating systems, the need to improvise using the < plus the 3, would fail to be necessary.

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  22. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    And really, the period to show pause after one word, isn't too much different than an exclamation point to show pause/emphasis.

    Wait! What did you say?

    Wait. What did you say?

    Wait, what did you say?

    The third option doesn't flow correctly so the top two would make better choices.

    How might you show pause in such cases, kwhilborn?
    Just curious.

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  23. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Me, too... Lol
    Would you take a moment to show us your apostrophe "pet peeves," please?

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