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Old 10-09-2010, 05:16 PM   #1
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What about commas?

I've been reading indie books and reviewing them, and there have been at least three I've read in the past few months that have abused and terrorized (or outright neglected!) commas. What is up with that?

While I'm not a high school English teacher, and I do tend to ramble in posts at times (because I write like I think.... I'm much more careful when writing up research and such), I feel I have a fairly good understanding of the English language, commas included.

Is it that schools no longer teach grammar rules? I can attest to the fact that the school where I worked for many years (K-12) did not, in fact, do much teaching in the area of grammar. When I was in secondary school, English and Literature were two different classes. Now they are one, combined and shortened.

After reading this last book, I even looked up every reputable site I could find about the rules governing the use of commas to be sure I wasn't crazy and making up my own rules for those blasted things. I wasn't.

If I'm reading along, trying to enjoy a fairly interesting book, and I see a sentence like this:
Quote:
Joe said "we just received word, that we have to go to the store quickly to do, the next part of the job Sam."
I'm thrown off. I'm distracted by the missing commas as well as the misplaced commas. Because of those commas, the cadence of the sentence is wrong, and I'm left to try to discern meaning. All I really end up doing is proofreading it in my head, which takes my time and energy away from enjoying the story. And some of these books are getting 5 star reviews left and right, for the "awesome story" and "what a thriller" plotlines, and I just can't get past the writing.

Is this an insidious phenomena in my very own head? Anyone else noticing this?

Spoiler:
(And if anyone would like to point out any mistakes I've used in punctuation in this thread because it makes him or her feel better, that's fine with me. It may have been a typo, it may have been an honest mistake, or it may be ignorance... but I'm not publishing this in ebook format and expecting people to pay $9.99 to read my errors.)
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Old 10-09-2010, 06:19 PM   #2
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Comma's and apostrophe's - their misplacing is the curse of the modern, age. Witness my local shop, which proudly announces that it sells panninis'. Or the sign outside an industrial site which states "Lorrie's Turning". Not to mention the sign put up by our HR department at work giving the dates of this year's Bank Holiday's.

When I become Galactic Emperor, a very special kind of torment will be devised for all who perpetrate such horrors. Gnashes dentures noisily, hobbles off muttering in senile fashion.....
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Old 10-09-2010, 06:23 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by alecE View Post
Comma's and apostrophe's - their misplacing is the curse of the modern, age. Witness my local shop, which proudly announces that it sells panninis'. Or the sign outside an industrial site which states "Lorrie's Turning". Not to mention the sign put up by our HR department at work giving the dates of this year's Bank Holiday's.
I really, really hope that you wrote that in irony?
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Old 10-09-2010, 06:26 PM   #4
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See my ranting about Gibson's Zero History:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...history+gibson

(The issues did clear up midway through the book.)
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Old 10-09-2010, 06:26 PM   #5
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Is this an insidious phenomena in my very own head? Anyone else noticing this?
Yes, all the time. Poor grammar and poor punctuation are sure signs of a book that hasn't been professionally edited. To me it screams out "I can't be bothered to get it right", and my reaction is "if you can't be bothered, then why should I bother with your book?"
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Old 10-09-2010, 06:29 PM   #6
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Well [comma] Grace [comma] I believe [comma] that you have asked a valid question on the use [comma] misuse [comma] and nonuse of commas in writing.

I just had to write that.

Repeated punctuation misuse totally distracts from my enjoyment of the flow of the story. The misplacement of a comma will change the meaning intended by the author (I think) or cause me to stop and try rereading the sentence a couple of different ways (changing the comma placement in my head) to fit the context of what I was reading.

It seems to me, that I did not come across this issue much, when I was younger. I thought, I knew the rules, but now, with all the reading on forums and mainstream/indie books, I am confused about the rules. The more times I see the misuse, the more I start to question my knowledge. Just in the writing of this post, I have probably not placed commas correctly.

I wonder if this "digital age" of texting, blogs, forums, and explosion of indie publishing has created a generation of those who are not bothered by use of grammar rules? Maybe, it is just those of us whom are older that really take note?
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Old 10-09-2010, 06:42 PM   #7
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Or the sign outside an industrial site which states "Lorrie's Turning".
It may not be important to you, but it's probably very significant for Lorrie
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Old 10-09-2010, 07:09 PM   #8
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Does anybody else hear William Shatner in their head when there are too many, and misplaced, commas? "Spock, we must, go to, warp"

Believe me, misuse of commas is rampant, and many times it is because people (not just writers) believe their computer will fix everything that is wrong with their writing.

We ran into this all the time at the school I was at last year. Grammar is addressed in high school, but usually the basic rules are expected to have been mastered in junior high (6-8 grades). There is also the instant messaging and texting problem.

If we can get a writer to read aloud what they have written, pausing every time they have a comma and not pausing where they have not put one, then this would mostly go away.

And don't even get me started on things like 'cause'. Not "I believe in a cause" but used in "I went cause I wanted to". No, 'cause' is NOT short for 'because'
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Old 10-09-2010, 07:09 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by ardeegee View Post
See my ranting about Gibson's Zero History:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...history+gibson

(The issues did clear up midway through the book.)
Holy comma, batman! Not totally misused, but definitely excessive and unnecessary.

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Yes, all the time. Poor grammar and poor punctuation are sure signs of a book that hasn't been professionally edited. To me it screams out "I can't be bothered to get it right", and my reaction is "if you can't be bothered, then why should I bother with your book?"
That's exactly it.

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,snip,
I wonder if this "digital age" of texting, blogs, forums, and explosion of indie publishing has created a generation of those who are not bothered by use of grammar rules? Maybe, it is just those of us whom are older that really take note?
Uh, wait, did you just call me OLDER??? Where's that negative karma button?? Yikes. I was just bemoaning the fact of my advancing age to my husband last night. It hasn't advanced past 40 yet (a few years to go), but it seems to have advanced more quickly than I'd like.

I do think that you're right about this digital age being part of the issue. That may explain the neglect of the poor comma. Punctuation in general is not a high priority of texters. But I still cannot figure out the misplacement of the comma. Why add them in randomly? I guess there's just something in my gut that lets me know when commas are wrong, so why are so many people's guts broken??

(note, I'm not getting into the apostrophe thing, that's a HUGE soapbox of mine and I just don't have time to stand on it at the moment)
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Old 10-09-2010, 07:09 PM   #10
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I vaguely remember one or more of my primary school teachers in the 1960's telling us that a comma belongs in a sentence "whenever you slow down". It should come as no surprise that for years I've had to regularly relearn the use of commas because of that. Right now, I can't tell you for certain how many commas belong in this paragraph. Fortunately, since I'm old and have advanced degrees in science, no one seems to care too much about my punctuation. And most of my colleagues don't knows how ether nor how to spel wich seams uppropriate I think.
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Old 10-09-2010, 08:03 PM   #11
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<snip> Fortunately, since I'm old and have advanced degrees in science, no one seems to care too much about my punctuation. And most of my colleagues don't knows how ether nor how to spel wich seams uppropriate I think.

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<snip> Maybe, it is just those of us whom are older that really take note?
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Originally Posted by GraceKrispy View Post
<snip>Uh, wait, did you just call me OLDER??? Where's that negative karma button?? Yikes. I was just bemoaning the fact of my advancing age to my husband last night. It hasn't advanced past 40 yet (a few years to go), but it seems to have advanced more quickly than I'd like.
Oops, let me just fix my last sentence.

3,2,1... changing word usage now...
Maybe, it is just those of us whom are older -->care<--- that really take note?

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Originally Posted by GraceKrispy View Post
I do think that you're right about this digital age being part of the issue. That may explain the neglect of the poor comma. Punctuation in general is not a high priority of texters. But I still cannot figure out the misplacement of the comma. Why add them in randomly? I guess there's just something in my gut that lets me know when commas are wrong, so why are so many people's guts broken??

(note, I'm not getting into the apostrophe thing, that's a HUGE soapbox of mine and I just don't have time to stand on it at the moment)
I get laughed at because I use correct spelling and punctuation when I text. It irritates me no end that I have to scroll back and forth sometimes just to figure out if the text sentence ended or if that part belongs in the new sentence.

[beg rant]Seriously, if you are going to send a text that long to me, just call me! [/end rant]
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Old 10-10-2010, 05:26 AM   #12
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Old 10-10-2010, 05:30 AM   #13
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Does anybody else hear William Shatner in their head when there are too many, and misplaced, commas? "Spock, we must, go to, warp"
When writing Shatner speak I'd use ellipses instead, like this (using the above phrase and also adding appropriate exclamation points): "Spock!...we must...go to...warp!"

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Originally Posted by mrscoach View Post
Believe me, misuse of commas is rampant, and many times it is because people (not just writers) believe their computer will fix everything that is wrong with their writing.
I agree. Although computers can help with your writing, nothing can replace the human eye when it comes to catching errors. In my own writing I tend to use parenthesis (rather than commas) to set off non-essential phrases within a sentence.

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We ran into this all the time at the school I was at last year. Grammar is addressed in high school, but usually the basic rules are expected to have been mastered in junior high (6-8 grades). There is also the instant messaging and texting problem.

If we can get a writer to read aloud what they have written, pausing every time they have a comma and not pausing where they have not put one, then this would mostly go away.

And don't even get me started on things like 'cause'. Not "I believe in a cause" but used in "I went cause I wanted to". No, 'cause' is NOT short for 'because'
"Because" can be shortened to "'cause" as long as you include the opening hyphen to indicate the missing letter(s). It's much like the hyphens in the phrase "Rock 'n' Roll" indicate the missing "a" and "d." But for me it's only appropriate when writing text where a character is speaking, essentially writing a quote so you can show how a character is actually speaking.
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Old 10-10-2010, 05:32 AM   #14
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Old 10-10-2010, 05:34 AM   #15
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If we can get a writer to read aloud what they have written, pausing every time they have a comma and not pausing where they have not put one, then this would mostly go away.
*Great* idea!!!
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