Writing Glitch #317

Today’s glitch:


This one is tricky. There’s an ellipsis interrupting a nonrestrictive clause, which may cause the writer to overlook the fact that it is a nonrestrictive clause. A nonrestrictive clause, which can be omitted without changing the basic meaning of the sentence as a whole, should be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas. (Don’t blame me; I’m not the one who said we needed more jargon in these posts.) The comma after wrong does belong there. If you removed the ellipsis, this is how it would look: There was something strange, something wrong, with the children who came from that house.

Actually, something wrong may be a nonrestrictive appositive, specifically. (An appositive expands on or “renames” what comes before it.) Doesn’t matter. Either way, you need that comma after wrong.

This example, by the way, shows the correct way to indicate a dramatic pause: with an ellipsis, not a comma or an em-dash. 🙂

Change the first that to who; it refers to people, not inanimate objects.

There was something strange, something… wrong, with the children who came from that house.

(If I seem a bit more “grumpy, grouchy old man” than usual today, it’s because my clone is suffering from a horrible migraine headache caused by rapid changes in air pressure. If you’ve ever been mindlinked to someone who’s in a great deal of pain, you understand, and if not… Well, use your imagination.)


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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6 Responses to Writing Glitch #317

  1. curioushart says:

    Would it change the meaning or the correct punctuation if there was no space after the ellipse?


    • I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your question.


      • curioushart says:

        Sorry. I’ll revise my question. Would it still be correct if it was written as “There was something strange, something…wrong, with the children who came from that house”? There is no space after the ellipse; there is a space after your corrected sentence. Does the space matter?


        • Spacing around punctuation doesn’t affect the meaning of a sentence. Different style guides have different rules, though (and I prefer not to go into the details of rules that apply specifically to newspaper/magazine writing, since I’m a FICTION editor).

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry about the migraine. They hurt like all get-out.


  3. M. Oniker says:

    I’m not sure children are human, the little monsters. So, to my way of thinking, the “that” is correct. 😉


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