A Most Troublesome Construction, Part 2

Thoughts and prayers going out to all of you on the East Coast.

When last we talked about this, we agreed that we would not like a single separating comma in these sentences.

…I expect that, he will not want to speak to me.
…We know that, you have to go to the left.
…He testified that, he liked to have a beer or two.

So if we do not want a single separating comma in the middle of these clauses as they exist here, we do not want a single separating comma when we add something into the clause. We must use two commas to surround the element or no commas at all.

…I expect that, when he finds this out, he will not want to speak to me.
…We know that, as you come to the next intersection, you have to go to the left.
…He testified that, after a hard day on his job, he liked to have a beer or two.

If the element we are adding is very short, we do not want any commas.

…I expect that by Friday he will not want to speak to me.
…We know that there you have to go to the left.
…He testified that after that he liked to have a beer or two.

This is a situation in which one comma simply will not work. You may not separate one part of the clause from the rest of it. This construction — that is, an element inserted into the middle of a that clause — has to be surrounded by commas or have no commas at all.

And adding a second that or omitting that altogether or putting that in another place does not alter the punctuation. That is simply “bad grammar to which we are applying good punctuation.”

…I know that, after he left the firm, it began to go downhill.
…I know that, after he left the firm, that it began to go downhill.
…I know, after he left the firm, that it began to go downhill.
…I know, after he left the firm, it began to go downhill.

I am well aware that this thinking on this construction goes against the thinking of some of the experts. I would simply like someone to step forward and explain how the single comma works with the grammar.

If you don’t like this —

…She recognized that, he was too young —

then you cannot like this:

…She recognized that when she saw him, he was too young.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Online Seminars with ev360Pro

Just finished my fourth online seminar with ev360Pro from CCR. I think I am getting the hang of it! This one was on semicolons. We had a great time — sat at home in our pajamas with the snack of our own choosing and chatted about semicolons. What better way to spend a Saturday morning!?

These seminars will be available on my website. You can listen to them, take and pass a short quiz, and I will issue a certificate that you can use to file for CEU’s. Each seminar is two hours long (.2 CEU’s). The topics so far have been fragments, quotes,  dashes and colons, and now this one on semicolons.

The one I just completed on semicolons will be available on the CCRA website in the near future. CCRA and I are partnering in this effort. The rest will be on my website. Sign up for my newsletter to see the exciting line-up we have planned for 2013. What an easy and inexpensive way to get your points and talk about your favorite topic — ENGLISH!

The next seminar is November 4 from 5:00 to 7:00 Pacific time and will be on hyphens and apostrophes. Let’s get problems with these two little pesky marks cleared up. Use the link here on my website to register, or go to ccr.edu.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

The Word “Please”

The punctuation for the word “please” varies according to its position in relation to what it modifies.

When it is at the beginning of the unit it modifies, use no punctuation after it.

…Please allow me to continue what I was saying.
…Please do not interrupt me.

When it is at the end of the unit it modifies, use a comma before it.

…Finish your thought, please.
…Leave it in the pile on the table, please.

When it is in the middle of the sentence, use a pair of commas or no commas, depending on its position in relation to what it modifies.

…Would you please stop interjecting your thoughts in the middle of my question.
…Try to please come with them next week.

…By the end of the day on Friday, please be sure these are on my desk.
…Before you say anything else, please consider the people present here.

…Will you send that to my office, please, by the 15th of the month.
…Pay attention to the details, please, so that we are sure to receive it in a timely manner.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Quotes Inside Quotes Inside Quotes

Take a look at this sentence:

…Now, I recognize — well, her response to that was “Hey, you know, somebody might say, ‘Hey, a driver told me about — you know, he came back from a delivery and said, “You know, this guy fell when I was delivering this lumber, and he got hurt.” ‘ “

The quotes alternate. It is double, then single, then back to double. I spaced it out at the end so that you could see them all individually.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

A Most Troublesome Construction

In my September newsletter, I posted this discussion. The October issue will be out in a few days, and I will go on to explain the punctuation. So before I do that, here is the original discussion:

…I expect that (after he reads my letter) he will not want to speak to me.
…We know that (upon exiting the train station) you have to go to the left.
…He testified that (at the end of a very long day) he liked to have a beer or two.

We seem to have “issues” (made worse by the “bad grammar” that some people use) with how to punctuate this construction.

First, we need to understand the grammar. It is always true that understanding the grammar in a sentence makes punctuation easier. Do you see a grammar class in our future? I do. [Coming in May and June of next year!]

Each main verb in these sentences has a direct object, which is an entire dependent clause. We call this dependent clause a noun clause because it has a noun function. A direct object answers the question whom or what after the verb.

…I expect a letter from him. (I expect what?)
…We know that man. (We know whom?)|
…He said those words. (He said what?)

…I expect what? I expect that he will not want to speak to me.
…We know what? I know that you have to go to the left.
…He said what? He said that he liked to have a beer or two.

The underlined portion is the direct object for the verb in each sentence.

Before I go on, is there any way that you would like a comma in these sentences? How about a comma after that? Is there any way you can justify putting a single comma anywhere in any one of these sentences?

…I expect that, he will not want to speak to me. (Does that comma work?)
…We know that, you have to go to the left. (Does this comma work?)
…He testified that, he liked to have a beer or two. (Do you want to separate these?)

Please remember that you don’t like a single comma there to separate the parts of the sentence.

Now that you understand the grammar of the construction and you do not want any comma separating anything, in the upcoming newsletter, we will see what to do about the punctuation when elements are dropped into the clause.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Sequential References

When a word and number appear together — Section 15, Chapter 12, page 3 — this is called a sequential reference. The number is always in a figure, and the word describing what it is is capped. There are a few exceptions: page, line, paragraph, verse, and size.

…on page 5
…in verse 14
…in line 7

…in Chapter 15
…in Row 17
…in Section 12

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Here We Come, GWSRA.

Heading to Washington, D.C., tomorrow to spend some time with GWSRA. Looking forward to the seminars.

When the word the precedes a surname, the name has to be plural. We do not say

…saw the Nelson… 🙁
…went with the Miller… 🙁

And when the name already has an s, it doesn’t change anything. We still have to make it plural.

…saw the Hodgeses… 🙂
…went with the Wellses… 🙂

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Coordinate Adjectives

Some people are confused about what to do with two or more adjectives that come in front of a noun. Most often, nothing is required. Sometimes a hyphen is required. Sometimes a comma is required between the adjectives. Then these are called coordinate adjectives.

Coordinate Adjectives: When two or more adjectives come in front of a noun and modify it with equal emphasis or equal value, they are called coordinate adjectives. Coordinate adjectives are separated from each other with a comma.

For this comma to be correct, the adjectives must modify more or less the same quality of the noun; that is, they are more or less synonyms.

…He was a genuine, down-to-earth kind of guy.
…She used effective, valuable contributions.
…He is a competent, efficient employee.

A test to check to see whether this comma is correct is to reverse the order of the adjectives. If the order is absolutely arbitrary — that is, it does not matter which one comes first — the comma is needed.

…It had been a difficult, taxing day.
…It had been a taxing, difficult day.

…I would say he is a handsome, attractive man.
…I would say he is an attractive, handsome man.

Another way to check is to insert the word and in between the two words. If the words make sense and again the order doesn’t matter, use a comma between the two words.

…He had an elegant and polished air about him.
…He had a polished and elegant air about him.

…He had a polished, elegant air about him.
…He had an elegant, polished air about him.

Happy punctuating!

Margie