As promised, here is the follow-up to last week’s discussion and quiz (http://www.normfriedman.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=542&action=edit) related to comma errors. This time, decide which sentences need corrections and which are fine as is.
1. I can’t figure out why the pie didn’t taste just like Mom’s, I followed her recipe.
2. Bernie, our former bookkeeper has found his calling in Topeka, Kansas as a chef.
3. Hi, Gladys. I hope you enjoyed seeing your cousin Cecil.
4. No, I wouldn’t call Millie “eccentric,” but her brother sure is.
1. The comma separates two sections that each qualify as a complete sentence, and that’s a classic error with many names including comma splice and comma fault. (Some writers do use a comma between two independent clauses when the two sections are extremely short [Paul drove, Pauline flew.], but what constitutes “extremely short”?)
So how do we fix this classic error? Here are some solutions, and you may have found others:
I can’t figure out why the pie didn’t taste just like Mom’s. I followed her recipe.
I can’t figure out why the pie didn’t taste just like Mom’s; I followed her recipe.
I can’t figure out why the pie didn’t taste just like Mom’s, seeing as I followed her recipe.
I can’t figure out why the pie didn’t taste just like Mom’s even though I followed her recipe.
2. We need two more commas. One goes after “bookkeeper” to finish what we started by putting a comma after “Bernie” to signify that “our former bookkeeper” is not essential. The other goes after “Kansas” (covered last week).
Bernie, our former bookkeeper, has found his calling in Topeka, Kansas, as a chef.
3. Correct as is. We are addressing Gladys directly, so we need punctuation on both sides of her name. And Gladys surely knows that Cecil is her cousin, so “cousin” is functioning as an adjective. No comma needed.
Hi, Gladys. I hope you enjoyed seeing your cousin Cecil.
4. This one is correct too. Commas are required after introductory words like “Yes” or “No,” and, as discussed in the November 25 post (http://www.normfriedman.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=117&action=edit), commas always go inside quotation marks.
No, I wouldn’t call Millie “eccentric,” but her brother sure is.
One of the solutions to #1 was using a semicolon where the comma was inadequate, but many of us are unsure of when we have the license to use a semicolon in that stylish way. Here is an excerpt from my book that may help.
If using a semicolon as above is not in your repertoire, you might be concerned that this lack of artistry will impede your path to the Pulitzer Prize. No need to worry. As you saw, you have several ways to avoid a comma splice. But if you would like to add this bit of flair, here are the rules:
• The two sections you want to separate with a semicolon need to be independent clauses (complete thoughts).
• The sections should be highly related – so much so that they seem to belong in the same sentence.
• The sections should not be joined with “and” or “but”; you don’t need a conjunction because the semicolon simultaneously shows a grammatical separation and a contextual connection.
In addition to presenting workshops on writing in the workplace, Norm Friedman is a writer, editor, and writing coach. His 100+ Instant Writing Tips is a brief “non-textbook” to help individuals overcome common writing errors and write with more finesse and impact. Learn more at http://www.normfriedman.com/index.shtml.