Writing Glitch #332

Today’s glitch:


Everything about the commas is wrong. Everything. The sentence has two commas where they emphatically do not belong and one missing from where a comma is needed.

How to tell if you should use a comma between adjectives: Both dark and business are adjectives here. However, they’re not coordinate adjectives; you couldn’t reverse the order of the adjectives and have the sentence make sense. You can’t say They were dressed in business, dark suits. Nor could you join the adjectives with and (They were dressed in business and dark suits). The same applies to some and unknown; you couldn’t say the explanation was fictional to some and unknown degree or to unknown, some degree.

In addition, the sentence is compound (you could make it two sentences by removing the conjunction and), so it needs a comma after suits.

They were dressed in dark business suits, and the explanation they gave for the evacuation was clearly fictional to some unknown degree.

(This example didn’t come from a writing prompt on Pinterest, the way most do. Instead, it’s a close paraphrase of something read while doing research for a work of fiction. At this time, Mercenary Proofreader would like to suggest to conspiracy theorists — although their ideas are usually only hypotheses, at best, and sometimes just unsupported conjectures — that they’d have a slightly better chance of being taken seriously if they would learn how to write about their ideas in a grammatically correct manner.)



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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2 Responses to Writing Glitch #332

  1. curioushart says:

    Sometimes I imagine the situation as written because it’s so amusing. This is one of those occasions.


  2. Well I messed up that dark business suit. Thanks for providing such a great explanation.


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