Commas in lists


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Thread: Commas in lists

  1. #1

    Commas in lists

    In some ways commas in lists are very simple to explain, you can think of them as a substitute for the wordíandí or the word Ďorí

    There are all sorts of punctuation marks, there are full stops and commas and semicolons and question marks for example.

    Clumsy isnít it so if there are three things or more we only use the last Ďandí.

    There are all sorts of punctuation marks, there are full stops, commas, semicolons and question marks for example.

    I donít usually put a comma before the Ďandí that is left myself as I see the comma as a substitute for the missing Ďandí, and that Ďandí is not missing. Some people do however, and I am told it is normal in America, it is certainly not wrong.

    I say Ďusuallyí because sometimes it can demonstrate something, consider this.

    I have a very English breakfast, porridge, toast, tea, and bacon and egg.

    If I didnít put the comma before Ďandí it might be that I donít have traditional bacon and egg, but a bacon sandwich and a boiled egg to follow; I have stopped substituting a comma and written the andís out in full for the last couple of items.

    Remember a list may not be single words. There can be words that join like Ďbacon and eggsí, but there can also be phrases, or even whole sentences.

    I write serious essays, John writes detective stories, and Ian writes fantasy and science fiction.

    Remember it must be three or more to use commas.

    John writes detective stories and Ian writes fantasy.

    No comma.

    If you are writing a list that modifies or qualifies something you will not need the final íandí.some ways round.

    She has long, red, curly, unruly hair
    but
    Her hair is long, red, curly and unruly

    Remember it is still a list.

    Come on Clark, have I got it right? Anything I missed?
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  2. #2
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    Remember it must be three or more to use commas.

    John writes detective stories and Ian writes fantasy.

    No comma.
    Technically, this example invokes the coordinating conjunction w/ independent clauses rule (fanboys).

    John writes detective stories, and Ian writes fantasy.

    If you eliminate the conjunction, you could go with "John writes detective stories; Ian writes fantasy."
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

    "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

  3. #3
    You've got some weird sentence structure in some of your examples...

    A comma splice, I believe, in "There are all sorts of punctuation marks, there are full stops, commas, semicolons and question marks for example."

    And I don't know if there's a name for it, but I think you should have a colon instead of the first comma in "I have a very English breakfast, porridge, toast, tea, and bacon and egg." Otherwise it looks as if the English breakfast is the first item in your list, rather than a collective term for all the following items.

    Fun with punctuation?

  4. #4
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Bayview, the rule about lists and colons is, essentially, if what comes before the list is an independent clause, use a colon; if it's not independent, don't use a colon.
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

    "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

  5. #5
    I actually had a separate-yet-related issue crop up recently regarding comma usage.

    I don't like to use semi-colons in stories unless absolutely necessary (I try to break into sentences) but have found in editing that certain paragraphs 'read better' with them. That being said, I'm not completely sure I am using them correctly.

    I remember thinking it didn’t feel as though anybody actually lived there; that it was more like some big show-home, the kind they sometimes turn into museums and grownups make their kids go see.
    I tend to want to use a semi-colon in any sentence where I have two connected sentences but in which I am using commas already in one 'part', as in the above example. So, basically, I don't want to be using multiple commas for separate expressions in a single sentence. As in something like this:

    He came to the hill, which looked out across the sea, a bright, green, salty sea.

  6. #6
    I remember thinking it didn’t feel as though anybody actually lived there; that it was more like some big show-home, the kind they sometimes turn into museums and grown-ups make their kids go see.
    In the above example I would use a comma in place of the semicolon. However, I might use a dash there instead to separate it a little more than a comma would. Alternatively, I might have it as a comma, but replace the comma after home with a dash, especially if I wish to place emphasis on the part after home, perhaps to make it feel a bit spookier. I think it's more likely I would replace the semicolon with a comma though.

    Although it's not the only use for a semicolon, I ask myself if a conjunction could go there. If the answer is 'yes', a semicolon is possible - a possible replacement for "because" or words that mean "because" such as "as" or "for". However, too many semicolons can give a piece a feeling of pomposity, I feel.

    The above are only my opinion and not cast in stone. Things that are cast in stone tend to be graveyard protrusions.

    He came to the hill, which looked out across the sea, a bright, green, salty sea.
    With this one that first comma is a funny thing. If it weren't there it could be taken to mean that the hill above the sea is something that we already know about. With the comma in place, we might already know about the hill above the sea, but it's less emphatic.
    The second comma could be replaced by a dash if you wish to place some additional emphasis on what follows. As far as the sea's colour goes, is it green or bright green. If the sea is bright green I would omit the comma between bright and green. I think it would probably be more effective for the sea to be bright green than a green sea that happens to be bright or a bright sea that happens to be green.

    It's all fairly subjective though and depends on what the writer wishes to achieve and which parts are to be emphasised, if any. The way I might write it is possibly different from the way you might.


  7. #7
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Lucky, your first example is technically fine. The semicolon is connecting two related clauses. The second one is tricky. Technically, you probably should use a colon instead of the second comma, but that's not very elegant. In fiction, I would personally break it into a new sentence and let the fragment stick out for emphasis.
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

    "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

  8. #8
    I would have split into a new sentence too, but I would have given it another comma at the end and stuck with the definite article.

    He came to the hill, which looked out across the sea. The bright, green, salty, sea.

    It seems there are many right ways of doing things, all with slightly different emphasis.

    Without that comma I would make it, 'The bright, green, salt sea.'
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  9. #9
    Baywatch, you are right, there are some strange constructions in my examples. It was late, I needed something to take my mind off something else, and I have been thinking about starting this thread for some time. The next one is to be about commas used to show words have been left out instead of repeated, I'll take a bit more care. In a way this seems to be the same thing, except the word left out is always 'and' or 'or'.
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Squalid Glass View Post
    Bayview, the rule about lists and colons is, essentially, if what comes before the list is an independent clause, use a colon; if it's not independent, don't use a colon.
    This feels like you're disagreeing, but... yes, that's what I was saying!

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