Writing Glitch #230

Today’s glitch:

glitch250

This sentence is compound and needs a comma after opened. (The fact that the first half and the second are of unequal length has nothing to do with how the sentence should be punctuated. Seriously, where do young people these days get their bizarre notions about how written English works?)

The doors finally opened, and when they did, we were met by a woman wearing combat fatigues and a deadly expression.

You could also add a comma before when, but with a relative clause (could be left out without changing the essential meaning of the sentence) immediately after a conjunction, the comma separating the relative clause from the conjunction is sometimes left out, too. Neither version is “more correct” than the other. The doors finally opened, and, when they did, we were met by a woman wearing combat fatigues and a deadly expression.

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About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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One Response to Writing Glitch #230

  1. I often wind up with this unwieldy construction and debate with myself about using the comma before and after the conjunction. My usual solution is to make two sentences. I think it’s easier on the reader.

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