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Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby glorybee » Sat Jul 05, 2014 6:29 pm

Virginia, I'm going to go ahead and say that I missed that one--although to be truthful, I think that second one falls in the gray area where a comma is optional. Writer's discretion.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby Shann » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:04 pm

I might be wrong, but I would say in the second sentence the word but is being used like the phrase except for. She ate no lunch except she drank broth and juice. If the word but means except, then there is no comma.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby glorybee » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:17 pm

Shann, that's not a rule that I've ever seen before. Can you give me a citation?
At any rate--and this is difficult on my tiny phone--I don't think 'but' means 'except' there. The sentence is

She ate no lunch but drank some broth and tea.

Or something like that. Close enough.

The point is, you couldn't correctly use 'except' there, because the second half of the sentence has a verb. You could write

She ate no lunch except broth and tea

But when you add the verb, the second part of the sentence becomes independent (with an implied "she').
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby Shann » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:29 pm

This is what I was referring to, but there is more to it that my brain must have forgotten. http://www.grammarly.com/handbook/punct ... efore-but/
Comma Before But
A comma should be placed before the word but only if but is at the beginning of an independent clause.

I would go for a walk, but for the rain.
In this sentence, but is being used to mean except. Because but isn’t starting an independent clause, the comma isn’t required.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby glorybee » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:33 pm

Oh, that wasn't what I was asking, sorry. You said if the word 'but' means 'except,' then there is no comma. (Even though I'm pretty sure that's not the case here.)
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby glorybee » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:37 pm

Okay, I see. It's difficult to go back and forth since I can't open two tabs.

We're both right. If 'but' means 'except,' no comma needed. That's not the case with this sentence, though.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby Shann » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:40 pm

I didn't remember it all. I remembered it saying that if the word but means except then no comma but the actual rule was In this sentence, but is being used to mean except. Because but isn’t starting an independent clause, the comma isn’t required.

I'm glad you had me clarify because originally I was focusing on the wrong thing. :D I was struggling with whether it meant except or not.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:04 pm

Jan, thanks for your reply. Jan and Shann, thanks for continuing to discuss this complicated topic.

glorybee wrote: But when you add the verb, the second part of the sentence becomes independent (with an implied "she').


I am still having difficulty with the placement of a comma after the independent clause but before the dependent clause. If I understand the website that Shann linked to, a comma is not needed if there is no subject in the second clause.

I also located a reference that seems to agree with Shann's:

http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp
(Rule #3c)

But Jan mentions the "implied she"--the "implied subject."

Still another example from my manuscript:

“By then, we’ll know more people, and have a better idea who to talk to.”

So am I correct in stating that the implied subject in the second clause is "we". Hence the comma after "people"?

Cinnamon Bear

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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby lish1936 » Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:59 pm

I don't think it's something I ate :lol: , but I'm just not getting this. I have to raise my hand again.

"Today I looked after a dear old gentleman who thinks the way I talk is just charming."


Cinnamon Bear: "I am under the impression that a comma should only be used if the clause beginning with “who” is not required to identify that person."

( For my brain, I think I need to put the above in another mode.)

Do not use a comma, if the clause beginning with who identifies a person
(I think there's a comma after comma (I almost wrote coma, which could be my other reason). :-)

Jan: "In the second, 'who' starts a phrase that further identifies the old man."


Is my positive statement correct, or am I hopelessly befuddled?



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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby glorybee » Sun Jul 06, 2014 7:10 am

Virginia--yes to the implied 'we.'

Lillian, your question is more complicated, and again, I can't look back at it while I'm answering, since I'm on my phone.

Here's a sample sentence:

I'd like to find a friend who will walk with me in the mornings.

No comma needed before 'who.'

Here's another:

My granddaughter, who is not quite five, is a little firecracker.

Use commas there.

Both have 'who' phrases that further identify, but the comma is only needed in the first one.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby glorybee » Sun Jul 06, 2014 7:14 am

To further clarify:

In the first sentence I just gave, the 'who' phrase is essential to the sentence. In the second, it is not.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby lish1936 » Sun Jul 06, 2014 9:46 am

Finally got it!! There's hope. :D

I'm assuming that if there is a "who" with a comma before, then a comma usually/always follows after the clause, as you've indicated.


Thanks,
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby tomoral » Sun Jul 06, 2014 12:50 pm

Wow! I got them all right. :superhappy Too bad I can't remember it when I'm writing. :lol:

Thanks Jan! :bow
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Of the beasts in life

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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby swfdoc1 » Sun Jul 06, 2014 4:26 pm

Cinnamon Bear wrote:Thanks, Jan.

I am confused about the placement of commas in reference to strong (independent) and weak (dependent) clauses. I was under the impression that if a weak clause follows a strong clause, a comma is not needed to separate them.

For example (also from my manuscript):

1) Agnes gazed at her, but did not speak.

2) She ate no lunch but drank some juice and broth.

I don’t understand why the first sentence should have a comma before the dependent clause, but the second sentence should not.

Cinnamon Bear


I know Jan generally prefers to stay away from using most technical grammar terms, but since you used one, I think it is important to note that the heart of your confusion may be that you have mis-identified dependent clauses. Neither of these sentences has a dependent clause. Remember, a dependent clause must have both a subject and a verb, yet not express a complete idea.

What both of these sentences do have are compound verbs/compound predicates. Or in non-technical terms they both have two verbs related to the same subject. Gazed and speak both have the same subject: Agnes. Ate and drank both have the same subject: She. Neither sentence should have a comma, since you are not supposed to put a comma between the verbs in a compound predicate.
Steve
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Re: Be a Better Writer--COMMAS ARE TRICKY

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:17 am

swfdoc1 wrote:I know Jan generally prefers to stay away from using most technical grammar terms, but since you used one, I think it is important to note that the heart of your confusion may be that you have mis-identified dependent clauses. Neither of these sentences has a dependent clause. Remember, a dependent clause must have both a subject and a verb, yet not express a complete idea.


Steve, thanks so much for your post. And you are correct that I was misidentifying dependent clauses. I was looking at a website that provided examples, but not precise definitions.

I need both precise definitions and examples in order to understand a concept. I feel that knowing the correct technical term is very helpful in finding the correct information and in communicating about the concept with others.

Thanks again. :)

Cinnamon Bear

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