Commas and punctuation.


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Thread: Commas and punctuation.

  1. #1

    Commas and punctuation.

    I have been re-reading ‘Eats, shoots and leaves’ in an attempt to improve my punctuation.

    Ms Truss gives a number of examples in the section on commas; I will stick with one,

    “The driver managed to escape from the vehicle before it sank and swam to the river-bank.”

    To avoid the suggestion that the vehicle, rather than the driver, swam to the bank she suggests that a comma should be inserted after ‘sank’. Grammatically correct Ms. Truss, but it is not the advice I would give a writer. You may have seen me ‘say’ it, “Put the things together that go together”. My point is that if so many people make errors when writing their commas it would seem likely that even more people will read them erroneously. If one re-phrases and writes,

    “The driver managed to escape, and swim to the bank, before the vehicle sank.”

    It really does not matter how badly you place your commas, it is still clear that the driver escaped, the driver swam, it was the bank he swam to and it was the vehicle that sank, only by putting a question mark at the end will punctuation change the sense. Even unpunctuated,

    “The driver managed to escape and swim to the bank before the vehicle sank”

    the emphasis changes slightly, but the sense remains clear.

    I stand by my advice, change your phrasing to put the things together that go together, You will save your reader from dodging around your sentences and your meaning will be clear even to those ignorant of punctuation.
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  2. #2
    WF Veteran Bloggsworth's Avatar
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    While grammatically I agree, it is not how people speak...
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  3. #3
    I disagree, I can equally imagine someone using my version or Ms. Truss' version, neither sounds awkward to me.
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  4. #4
    Good point. The best punctuation available won't save an unclear sentence. The example might be better put as two sentences.
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