Grammar gurus: Commas

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 30, 2013 5:34 PM GMT
    What's your educated call on these sample sentences?

    1. He placed a single medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.

    OR

    He placed a single, medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.


    2. The church had a large round window on the front.

    OR

    The church had a large, round window on the front.
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    Oct 30, 2013 5:41 PM GMT
    No commas. If you list several attributes, then trot out the commas. But not for just one. I think we learned that it was three or more.

    I dunno... could use them in those cases if you want. But then wouldn't it be, "single, medium-sized, cardboard box"?
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    Oct 30, 2013 5:55 PM GMT
    Yeah, the first one is difficult (for me at least). Because if single were replaced with "one," you wouldn't place a comma after it:

    He placed one medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.
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    Oct 30, 2013 6:11 PM GMT
    I guess I would use them if I were trying to draw attention to the box.
  • MikeW

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    Oct 30, 2013 6:18 PM GMT
    I see no reason for commas in either unless you want to break the descriptive flow of the text.

    But why is "single" necessary in sentence 1 at all? Might it have been married or otherwise partnered? (jk)

    "Single" is implicit with "a" and unnecessary:

    He placed a medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.
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    Oct 30, 2013 6:22 PM GMT
    MikeW saidI see no reason for commas in either unless you want to break the descriptive flow of the text.

    But why is "single" necessary in sentence 1 at all? Might it have been married or otherwise partnered? (jk)

    "Single" is implicit with "a" and unnecessary:

    He placed a medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.


    Single is used in this case to emphasize that there is little to pack up. In other words, there will be no more cardboard boxes after.
  • MikeW

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    Oct 30, 2013 6:30 PM GMT
    wrestlervic said
    MikeW saidI see no reason for commas in either unless you want to break the descriptive flow of the text.

    But why is "single" necessary in sentence 1 at all? Might it have been married or otherwise partnered? (jk)

    "Single" is implicit with "a" and unnecessary:

    He placed a medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.


    Single is used in this case to emphasize that there is little to pack up. In other words, there will be no more cardboard boxes after.

    Not having the sentence's context it is difficult to know what is important within it. "Having little to pack up, he placed a single cardboard box on his desk." ETA: In this instance the reader would assume it isn't a very large box.
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    Oct 30, 2013 6:31 PM GMT
    wrestlervic saidWhat's your educated call on these sample sentences?

    1. He placed a single medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.

    OR

    He placed a single, medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.


    2. The church had a large round window on the front.

    OR

    The church had a large, round window on the front.


    1 needs no comma after "single": the emphasis is that it is merely one medium box

    2 could carry the comma as "large" and "round" are both describing the type of window, or not. I personally wouldn´t use it as I find over comma-ing minimal lists rather cumbersome and pedantic.
  • MikeW

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    Oct 30, 2013 6:41 PM GMT
    GonzoTheGreat said2 could carry the comma as "large" and "round" are both describing the type of window, or not. I personally wouldn´t use it as I find over comma-ing minimal lists rather cumbersome and pedantic.

    I like to think of it as a matter of 'voice' flow. If I were describing this church to someone, would I pause after "large" and then say "round"?
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    Oct 30, 2013 6:42 PM GMT
    Aristoshark saidNo commas required in either.
    ---The GrammarShark

    +1
  • WrestlerBoy

    Posts: 1903

    Oct 30, 2013 7:20 PM GMT
    wrestlervic saidWhat's your educated call on these sample sentences?

    1. He placed a single medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.

    OR

    He placed a single, medium-sized cardboard box on his desk.


    2. The church had a large round window on the front.

    OR

    The church had a large, round window on the front.


    I'd argue you need commas in both, simply to avoid "single" modifying "medium-sized" (you intend both to modify the noun phrase "cardboard box") and "large" modifying "round" (again when you intend them both to modify "window").

    But the "short comma" problem is often just that.

    "He drank a nice cold beer." Now you could make the same argument here I just made above, but somehow a grammatical "common sense" says "a nice cold beer" is ok without the commas, almost phraseologically, whereas "a single medium...." is potentially too confusing without the comma help.

    Try another one....

    "He drank a single single-malt scotch before he left."

    I'd argue for "single, single-malt..."




  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Oct 30, 2013 7:50 PM GMT
    WrestlerBoy saidTry another one....

    "He drank a single single-malt scotch before he left."

    I'd argue for "single, single-malt..."

    But why would an author write such a cumbersome, not to mention boring, sentence? Why do we stupid readers need to be told that "a" doesn't mean "just one"?

    "He tossed back a single-malt scotch before he ran out the door," or even "He shakily poured himself a single-malt scotch before he left for the funeral," tells me a lot about the character and his disposition.
  • WrestlerBoy

    Posts: 1903

    Oct 30, 2013 7:58 PM GMT
    MikeW said
    WrestlerBoy saidTry another one....

    "He drank a single single-malt scotch before he left."

    I'd argue for "single, single-malt..."

    But why would an author write such a cumbersome, not to mention boring, sentence? Why do we stupid readers need to be told that "a" doesn't mean "just one"?

    "He tossed back a single-malt scotch before he ran out the door," or even "He shakily poured himself a single-malt scotch before he left for the funeral," tells me a lot about the character and his disposition.


    I couldn't agree more, but there are genuine linguistic "niceties" here that some people find interesting or fun to reflect upon, and some people don't.

    I mean, it is a "grammar" thread, after all, and (some of us) could make it a lot worse and even more boring: What we're literally talking about here is (eh hem) how punctilious do we really want to be in distinguishing asyndetic coordination from the hypotactic relationship of adjectives, right?

    (Yes, even years after graduating college, phil and linguistics majors can still talk like that icon_biggrin.gif

  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Oct 30, 2013 8:02 PM GMT
    WrestlerBoy saidI mean, it is a "grammar" thread, after all, and (some of us) could make it a lot worse and even more boring: What we're literally talking about here is (eh hem) how punctilious do we really want to be in distinguishing asyndetic coordination from the hypotactic relationship of adjectives, right?

    (Yes, even years after graduating college, phil and linguistics majors can still talk like that icon_biggrin.gif

    FUCK! Totally awesome, dude, AND you have a hot bod! Dayeum. icon_razz.gif
  • WrestlerBoy

    Posts: 1903

    Oct 30, 2013 8:04 PM GMT
    It's your zen vibes that bring out the best in me!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 30, 2013 8:15 PM GMT
    He placed a single Size-M cardboard box on his desk.

    lol
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Oct 30, 2013 8:18 PM GMT
    WrestlerBoy saidIt's your zen vibes that bring out the best in me!

    Don't know about "zen vibes." I'm a total idiot myself. Anything even remotely academic espoused by a hunk gets my attention. Reading punctilious, asyndetic and hypotactic in the same sentence now has me totally hot and bothered. icon_twisted.gif
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 30, 2013 8:23 PM GMT
    MikeW said
    WrestlerBoy saidTry another one....

    "He drank a single single-malt scotch before he left."

    I'd argue for "single, single-malt..."

    But why would an author write such a cumbersome, not to mention boring, sentence? Why do we stupid readers need to be told that "a" doesn't mean "just one"?

    "He tossed back a single-malt scotch before he ran out the door," or even "He shakily poured himself a single-malt scotch before he left for the funeral," tells me a lot about the character and his disposition.


    We're using simple, generic sentences to concentrate on comma usage.
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Oct 30, 2013 8:37 PM GMT
    wrestlervic saidWe're using simple, generic sentences to concentrate on comma usage.

    Well, that does explain everything but lacks the seductive titillation of WrestleBoy's noetic exegesis.
  • WrestlerBoy

    Posts: 1903

    Oct 30, 2013 8:41 PM GMT
    MikeW said
    wrestlervic saidWe're using simple, generic sentences to concentrate on comma usage.

    Well, that does explain everything but lacks the seductive titillation of WrestleBoy's noetic exegesis.


    I think only on RealJock could guys actually make a convo about grammar.... sexy? See, it's the WRESTLERS, right, Vic??? icon_smile.gif

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 30, 2013 9:48 PM GMT
    WrestlerBoy said
    MikeW said
    wrestlervic saidWe're using simple, generic sentences to concentrate on comma usage.

    Well, that does explain everything but lacks the seductive titillation of WrestleBoy's noetic exegesis.


    I think only on RealJock could guys actually make a convo about grammar.... sexy? See, it's the WRESTLERS, right, Vic??? icon_smile.gif



    Wrestling is grammar.....body grammar. ;-)
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Oct 30, 2013 10:09 PM GMT
    wrestlervic saidWrestling is grammar...

    Hot DAMN, it is LITERALLY Grammar Slam!
  • WrestlerBoy

    Posts: 1903

    Oct 30, 2013 10:54 PM GMT
    MikeW said
    wrestlervic saidWrestling is grammar...

    Hot DAMN, it is LITERALLY Grammar Slam!


    Language is, indeed, the "stratification of behavior," and wrestling embodies a series of non-phatic corporeal responses ritualized by means of....

    I mean, you know, wrestling is THE hottest exercise in grammar, ever!

  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Oct 30, 2013 11:12 PM GMT
  • WrestlerBoy

    Posts: 1903

    Oct 30, 2013 11:25 PM GMT
    Timbales said


    I love that song!!

    (But, of course, we weren't talking about "Oxford commas" in this thread).