Questions of the Day: “Because” and Email Addresses

Margie Wakeman Wells General 28 Comments

These are two questions I have answered this morning:

I hate “because” clauses. Does this get a comma?

“I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged.

A clause that starts with “because” is an adverb clause. When an adverb clause is at the end of the unit it modifies, it does NOT take a comma. We will be talking about clauses a lot here.

What about email addresses? How should they be transcribed?

Though I have not researched this topic, I believe they should be entered into the transcript exactly as they are entered into the TO box for an email, in other words, all jammed together and with caps or no caps depending upon what the address looks like as constructed.

My hope, in posting some of the questions and answers here, is that we all benefit from the information.

Happy punctuating.

Margie

Comments 28

  1. Hello, Margie.

    “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged.”

    Would you please clarify the above for me? It seems to me that the words “because that’s privileged” are providing nonessential information; therefore, it is my opinion that they should be preceded by a comma in the example above.

    I believe that the examples below are properly punctuated. Do you agree?

    I am ordering a large burger because I am hungry. (No comma.)

    I am not asking Bob to explain this, because Bob doesn’t know about such things. (Requires a comma.)

    Thank you, Margie

    1. Hi, Jim.

      This is where I am going with this whole string. As I understand the language, those terms “essential/nonessential” have to do with essential to “define” something, which limits the terms to adjectives and appositives and the like.

      …my friend John…

      John is essential to tell us which friend we are talking about. If it is really about communication — and it is — then “essential/nonessential” is about do we need the word “John” to define which friend? Or are we communicating okay without the word “John.” The answer is we are not communicating well. If I say, “I went with my friend” and the word “John” is not there, you need probably to ask me, “Which friend?” Therefore, “John” is an essential appositive and does not need a comma.

      …went to see my friend who lives in Ohio…
      …went to see my oldest and best friend, who lives in Ohio…

      …talked to my son Tedd… (I have two sons.)
      …talked to my 42-year-old son, Scott…

      …sciences being taught in high school are…
      …my only daughter, being taught all in Spanish, is…

      I don’t think “essential/nonessential” applies to adverb clauses at all. They don’t really define anything the way adjectives do.

      There is something that Gregg discusses that is called a “loosely attached” adverb clause, where the content is unrelated. These take a comma.

      …will attend UCLA, though I don’t think he has a prayer of finishing…
      …is moving up in the firm, if you can believe what he is saying…

      To me, these are almost what Gregg calls “independent comments.”

      So the short answer is that I don’t think adverb clauses fall under the idea of necessary or not necessary. Adverb clauses are punctuated by their position in relation to what they modify.

      Have a great evening. I am off to North Dakota tomorrow — two gigs later in the week.

      Happy punctuating.

      Margie

  2. Hi, Margie.

    I agree completely that “nonessential” was a poorly chosen concept for this discussion.

    Then again, let’s get back to the example in question:

    “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged.”

    What I am suggesting here is the sentence above, without a comma before “because,” says something quite different from what the speaker intended. What the sentence clearly says, but did not mean to imply is that the speaker is asking the question posed, but not for the reason given: “because that’s privileged.”

    While concentrating on my admitted misuse of “nonessential,” you (inadvertently, I’m sure) jumped right over the subject matter of my question: that the example above does in fact require a comma before “because.”

    To further clarify my point, consider the following:

    I am not asking Bob to explain this because Bob doesn’t know about such things.
    I am not asking Bob to explain this, because Bob doesn’t know about such things.

    I submit that the two examples above say two entirely different things, the former implying that the speaker is asking Bob to explain this, but for a reason other than “because Bob doesn’t know about such things,” and the latter implying that the speaker is notasking Bob the question at all. Why? “Because Bob doesn’t know about such things.

    Your thoughts on t his would be much appreciated, my friend.

    Jim

  3. P.S. to Margie.

    “Adverb clauses are punctuated by their position in relation to what they modify.”

    Precisely my point, dear one.

    “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged” is the original example; and I submit that, even though the “because” adverbial clause falls at the end, the word “because” should be preceded by a comma, which seems to conflict with your statement that “When an adverb clause is at the end of the unit it modifies, it does NOT take a comma.”

    Ah, sweet clarity, where you be?

    1. I have pondered this now for a while. I see the difference in meaning. Again, however, I am not sure that the reporter can discern which meaning is intended without other information present in the sentence.

      Gregg allows for a comma before an adverb clause at the end that is what he refers to as “loosely attached.” My examples for this would be in the nature of

      …He will be here before noon, although I am sure he won’t make it.
      …He will attend an in-state school, if he decides to take my advice.

      I am not sure whether that is what we have here, but it is a possibility perhaps. I agree that there are two different meanings. The comma for clarity is, again, often a way to bring out a difference.

      So I would recommend that we fall back on that rule to make the difference in meaning here.

  4. I am off to North Dakota in a few minutes, so will delay a full answer.

    I see your point. I am thinking,then, that you want the “because” — why, oh, why are there no italics here??? — to be “loosely connected,” as in the Gregg definition.

    More to come, dear Jim. Why have we not connected sooner in this life? Think of the fun we have been missing.

  5. I’m so glad to read this discussion. This is an issue that has been bugging me ever since I first learned of your position on this, Margie. I tend to agree with Jim on this one. I’m eager to read your answers to him. Thanks.

  6. Hi Jim. I kind of see your point, but I respectfully disagree.

    “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged.”

    With your line of thinking, I would feel that the whole sentence in introductory to something that would follow, such as:

    “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged, I’m asking because I’m nosy.”

    So with no comma, and without it being an introductory phrase, I think the meaning is understood very well.

    I struggle over this “because” clause thing every day, and I don’t always feel it’s right without a comma, so I hope we get this all muddled through to everyone’s satisfaction and delight!

  7. Hi. Cindy!

    You wrote: With your line of thinking, I would feel that the whole sentence in introductory to something that would follow, such as:

    “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged, I’m asking because I’m nosy.”
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    My friend, our thoughts here are as parallel as railroad tracks (so far). Without a comma before “because,” the sentence does not say what the speaker meant to say. He meant to say that he was not asking; but without the comma, it says that he is asking, but for a reason other than “because that’s privileged,” and that other reason is not given.
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Let’s revisit my previous examples for a moment.

    “I am not asking Bob to explain this because Bob doesn’t know about such things.”

    As in the example under discussion, my example above (without the comma) clearly implies that the questioner is asking Bob a question, but it is being asked for a reason other than “Bob doesn’t know such things.” Alternatively, as you rightly suggested, without a comma, the entire sentence seems to be introducing something that never got introduced.

    In the example below, with the comma, the sentence very clearly says that the speaker is not asking the question at all. Why? ” Because “Bob doesn’t know about such things.”

    “I am not asking Bob to explain this, because Bob doesn’t know about such things.”

    You wrote: So with no comma, and without it being an introductory phrase, I think the meaning is understood very well.

    There, we are in disagreement.

    Let’s look at Scenarios A and B:

    A) “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged.”

    B) “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney, because that’s privileged.”

    Scenario A, without the comma, lends itself to the interpretation that, as you pointed out, without a comma, the entire sentence seems to be introducing something that, in fact, was not introduced.

    Scenario B, with the comma, clearly says that the speaker is not asking the question; and the reason that he is not asking the question is “because that’s privileged.”
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    This is exciting stuff, Cindy. Glad to see ya here!

    1. I totally get what you’re saying here Jim, and I must agree.

      Maybe the real question to be asked here is whether or not the “because” statement is actually an adverb clause modifying what is preceding it. Is it modifying it or is it adding to it?

      1. Yes. It is still an adverb clause.

        I agree that we would use the comma in one and not in the other in order to distinguish the meaning. In my book — not literally — I think it would be a comma for clarity.

  8. I am loving this discussion. Maybe not the part where I had to pick up my pieces of brain off of the chair, but other than that, it’s been fun. I used to strictly rely on Morson’s for this (essential/nonessential).

    But I can follow Margie’s logic on this. If an adverbial clause is at the end of the sentence, it wouldn’t need a comma. But even Margie says that you can have an exception to this when you need to provide clarity.

    This particular example given results in the scattered brain pieces because one could assume what the meaning is here, or one could be concerned that it would not be automatically understood. Jim has pointed this out quite well. Before he made his point, I would not have thought any confusion would result, but I can see his point. I think it’s one of those that the answer may depend on how long you’ve looked at it. 😉

  9. For clarity, I should specify the “particular answer given” I was referencing was the following sentence: “I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because that’s privileged.”

  10. Post
    Author

    Okay. You all are great. I taught six hours today and just drove five more to get here to Grand Forks. I am thinking this is not the time for me to be incredibly lucid on this point. I will, in fact, tackle this when I get home.

    I see the points you are all making. I am not totally sure that I think the punctuation makes each meaning clear, but I am very sure that I am too tired to give a great answer to this tonight. 🙂 Hugs to you all!

    Happy punctuating.

    Margie

  11. I’m with you, Jim, on this. Was very surprised at the original answer given, so thrilled to see your response and explanation.

  12. I must agree with Jim on this one.

    To understand, take the sentence a bit further and consider this example: I am not asking about conversations you had with your attorney because you had been arrested and were seeking advice.

    The “because” in your original example has nothing to do with why there were conversations with the attorney. The “because” is explaining the speaker’s intent in asking the question, which is nonessential.

  13. More . . .

    “I didn’t go to the party because I am 65 years old” implies that the speaker did go to the party, but he went for some reason other than being 65 years old.

    “I didn’t go to the party, because I am 65 years old” implies that the speaker did not go the party; and the reason he didn’t go to the party was because he was 65 years old..

    “She didn’t invite me to the party because I’m her father” implies that his daughter did invite him to the party, but there was some other reason for inviting him.

    “She didn’t invite me to the party, because I’m her father” implies that his daughter did not invite him to the party. Why did she not? Who knows? But it wasn’t because the man was her father.

    And on and on and on . . .

    Margie, let’s keep revisiting this until we have finally put it to rest.

  14. Let’s simplify this a bit.

    “I’m not asking because that’s privileged” means that the questioner is asking, but he is asking for a reason other than “that’s privileged.”

    “I’m not asking, because that’s privileged” means that the questioner is not asking the question, and the reason he isn’t asking the question is because “that’s privileged.”

    “I don’t love you because you’re too tall” means that the speaker does love the person to whom he is speaking, but being too tall is not the reason.

    “I don’t love you, because you’re too tall” means that the speaker does not love the person to whom he is speaking, and the reason is that the person to whom he is speaking is too tall.

    I submit that the examples above, and their explanations, are correct. I am patiently waiting either for a confirmation or an education, either of which would be delightful, Margie.

  15. Hi there, Margie!

    “I agree that the comma gives it a different meaning.”

    Then we are standing on the same ground as this conversation continues (a good thing).

    “However, I would go back and say that this is not about essential/nonessential. I will talk more about this in the coming weeks.”

    My argument in the case of of Essential v. Nonessential is that itis essential that easily rectified ambiguity not be allowed to stand.

    🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      I agree. What I still have trouble with is how you know what exactly the person intended. Without other context, I don’t think we can tell.

      But do notice those first two words in my response.

  16. Hi, Margie.

    “What I still have trouble with is how you know what exactly the person intended. Without other context, I don’t think we can tell.”

    I submit that, given the context provided by the instant question and answer and by the preceding and following Q&A, the meaning is much more often than not quite easy to discern. And most of the time, the wording itself makes it crystal clear as to what the speaker intended. In my experience, not knowing the speaker’s intent is not the the typical situation in which a text editor typically finds him- or herself.

    Just a thought . . .

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