Saturday, November 28, 2009

David'Z RantZ: Commas




(The following post is an example of the rantz I often did on my old David'Z RantZ blog. You've been warned.)

Did Wal-Mart have a freakin' sale on commas that nobody told me about?

I mean, I'm getting used to the fact that people either don't know or don't care where they use their apostrophes. I often see a word made plural by the incorrect addition of an apostrophe and an S...

Examples?

Correct: Toys.
Incorrect: Toy's.

There's a company in my town called "Two Guy's Trucking." [sic] That would only work if the business were owned by one person, a Native American known as "Two Guy."

Not to mention, "it's" only needs the apostrophe if you're writing a contraction of "it is." If you're using the possessive pronoun, such is not the case.

Examples?

Correct: "It's getting late."
Incorrect: He used the word without knowing it's meaning."

I mean, you wouldn't write things like "hi's" and "her's" instead of "his" and "hers," would you?

Maybe you would. But I digress.

Anyway, I'm seeing an awful lot of people using commas needlessly lately.

Examples?

Correct: My good friend Bob likes to watch television.
Also Correct, Technically: My good friend, Bob, likes to watch television
Incorrect: My good friend Bob, likes to watch television.

If you're not sure whether or not you're doing it correctly, try reading the sentence with a medium-sized pause after each comma. If it sounds odd, it's probably wrong.

Examples?

My good friend Bob likes to watch television.
My good friend [pause] Bob [pause] likes to watch television.
My good friend Bob [pause] likes to watch television.

The second one, although formatted in a pretty-much-accepted way, could cause confusion. Do you mean that your good friend likes to watch television, and that your good friend is named Bob? Or are you telling Bob that your good (but unnamed) friend likes to watch television?

That third one only works (verbally) if you want to build suspense and make us say "Bob does what? Bob does what? What does Bob do?!?"

I'm kidding... kinda/sorta.

End of the lesson.

And thanks for your time.

P.S. -- Anyone who leaves a comment purposely screwing up the usage of a comma, or any other punctuation mark(s), is automatically declared "predictable." And a doody-head.

14 comments:

  1. Ah,finally a long explanation dear professor!And yeah,commas are a problem to me...can I call you to correct my text?;)

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  2. yeah i am just guilty...thats why i need an editor...smiles.

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  3. @Brian: Hey, we all do! But the "David'Z RantZ" persona -- borrowed now and again from my older, "retired" blog, is quite a bit feistier than my Silver Fox tone. (Which might revive those MPD questions in the minds of Ronda, Alan, and the like!) I'd often rant & rave in over-the-top fashion about something that only mildly annoyed me in "real life," and worry that someone would read it and wonder "Hey! Did he mean me?"

    Candie: You shouldn't worry, considering that English isn't your first language, babycakes! ;-) I'd hate to think of how many corrections you would point out to me if I dared write more than a sentence or two in the languages you know. And as far as calling me, go ahead! My number is... Oh, wait, not a good idea. Maybe you could send a private email sometime? ;-)

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  4. Wow!!! You sound like a really grouchy old dude and I'm glad I don't follow this blog on a regular basis because if I did I'd probably be pulling my hair out right about now and I need all the hair I can get and a moose once bit my sister.

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  5. Commas do seem to be a problem. I often have to stop myself and ponder whether I should put one in. My general rule lately has been to use them only if separating clauses within a longer sentence.

    Oh yeah, and this: "Jane went to the grocery store. John went to the grocery store, too." Which has always confused me; why do we put that comma there? I've been told that contemporary grammarians now accept omitting that particular placement of the comma, but I haven't seen anything official about it. Any clue?

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  6. @Skip: Hm. That sentence could have used a few commas... Hey! You have a sister, and you never introduced us?!?

    @Roy: I long ago accepted that the English language is a "living" language and constantly changes. I complain when, in my opinion, the changes are stupid ones. And people on the 'net are the worst offenders by virtue of the fact that their stuff is so accessible to the public. (For example, "waste" and "waist" are NOT interchangeable, for cryin' out loud!) Anyway, there are often instances where two versions are acceptable, as in your example. What gets me is that these "contemporary grammarians" have the nerve to make these changes without consulting me first. The nerve of them!

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  7. What drives me crazy are people who use "then" when they should be using "than." Those words are NOT interchangeable. This is also true of "hear" and "here." And "their", "there", and "they're." "Yeah" is not spelled "yea." "Yea" rhymes with "yay." If you want to breathe you have to put an "e" at the end of the word. Nobody "breaths." But most of all my eyeballs roll over into the back of my head when I encounter someone who cannot spell "separate." I could go on and on but if I do I'm sure to use an incorrect comma and then you won't love me anymore.

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  8. @AngelMay: Not love you anymore? Oh, that'd never happen!

    But how about "cloths" when they mean "clothes?" (Similar to your "breathe" and "breath" examples.) And "free reign" instead of "free rein?" (At least that's understandable; "reign" means "to rule"... but "free rein" is an old term about letting the reins go so a horse can run free.) And "where" and "were" are used interchangeably as well. The word "lose" is getting... well... lost, because people use "loose" to mean both "loose" (pronounced "loos") and "lose" (pronounced "looz").

    I could keep this up for hours.

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  9. I thoroughly enjoyed this rant. This is a real pet peeve of mine too.

    Oh, you cracked me up!

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  10. I'm terrible with commas. I think they changed the grammar rules around since I was in grammar school.

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  11. Please never do a grammar post again if there's any chance I might read it when I'm not at work BEING AN EDITOR.

    *faints from weekend grammar shock*

    p.s.
    Kidding.

    p.p.s.
    Mostly.

    p.p.p.s.
    I forgot you do the "capcha" thing...stupid spammers, making it hard for me to leave a comment.

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  12. @Cake: So, you're feeling like I do when a friend says, "Hey, you're a writer, right? Could you punch up my resume for me [or "check this term paper," or "polish this email I wrote about a job I'm applying for," or "write a six page letter to the girl who just dumped me"]... for free, of course?"

    Sorry 'bout that, skeeter!

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