Writing Glitch 949

Today’s glitch:

Delete the comma.

Now you’re done. Yay!

Yes, I know that if you were taught to figure out comma placement by just looking for verbs — any verbs — and separating them, this example is punctuated “correctly.” However, there are big problems with that method, because not every verb is the predicate for a complete sentence. (I try to avoid jargon — I hate it, personally, because it means something only to people who already know these things — but sometimes I have to go into a bit of the “hard stuff,” beyond noun and adverb and compound sentence. I guarantee that any other reliable source of grammar-and-punctuation advice, such as the Grammar Girl website, would tell you the same thing about this example sentence: Don’t put a comma in it.)

In the example, they had spent so long trying to hide just describes magic; that part may look like an independent clause (complete sentence on its own), and it could be in some other context, but it isn’t one here. You have to consider how words are being used in context, not just what parts of speech they appear to be when standing alone on a page… and that is why computer programs cannot edit/proofread as well as a live human (or reasonable substitute for same) with a good understanding of how written English works.


About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live 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 eight cats. 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 949

  1. M. Oniker says:

    If you changed it to The magic, that they spent so long trying to hide, was now visible for all to see., would that work? (And I have no idea how to punctuate the question I just wrote!) (Damn you, Weaver!) :::goes to take anti-anxiety meds for grammar::: :::had to look up the hyphenation on anti-anxiety::: Will it never end?! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • You could punctuate it that way, although I’d recommend changing that to which, because the part between the commas is now nonrestrictive (could be left out without changing the essential meaning).

      Sorry you’re feeling anxiety about grammar; that is never my intention. You did punctuate that first sentence correctly (italics and all), if that helps to know.

      Liked by 2 people

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