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That Comma - Queue
February 14th, 2006
01:49 pm

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That Comma
I've been seeing things like the following recently.
I hope you see that in order for this to work, it has to be green.
Now, I immediately want to put a comma after "that", but I've been seeing this in a number of places recently. Is this some kind of new style that I'm not aware of?

Edited to add: Here's another way of thinking about is: the commas around "in order for this to work" are acting like parentheses. And just as you wouldn't leave off one of the parentheses, you shouldn't leave off one of the commas.

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From:surrealkitten
Date:February 14th, 2006 06:59 pm (UTC)
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if i saw a comma there i would want to erase it.
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 07:06 pm (UTC)
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Why?
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From:surrealkitten
Date:February 14th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC)
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Because it's unnecessary. :)

Sorry.

Seriously, comma placement (except for lists) is subjective. I say they're grossly overused today because people think every small pause must be transcribed.
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:02 pm (UTC)
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See my comment to gnomi below. It's fine if you want to leave them out entirely, but I really don't think you can have just the one at the end.
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From:magid
Date:February 14th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC)
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I think it's mimicking certain speech patterns (which is to say, is not necessarily grammatically correct).
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From:gnomi
Date:February 14th, 2006 07:12 pm (UTC)
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I think that comma is extraneous and should be exised.

But I'm a comma pedant.
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
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How do you justify that? What you basically have is the sentence:
I hope you see that it has to be green.
with the clause:
in order for this to work
added in the middle. You either set that clause of with commas or you don't, but you don't just set it off with one comma. What am I missing here?
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From:gnomi
Date:February 15th, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)
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I'm advocating for removal of the existing comma and not setting the clause off at all (as you say):

I hope you see that in order for this to work it has to be green.


Alternately, you could completely recast the sentence.:

I hope you see that it has to be green in order for this to work.

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From:queue
Date:February 15th, 2006 03:08 am (UTC)
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Ah, I misunderstood. I like the recast sentence.
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From:jencallisto
Date:February 14th, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC)
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i agree with this but i'm having trouble articulating why.

i think i've just gotten into the habit of stripping down my comma use, as i historically tend towards too many rather than too few. so i would use a comma to separate out the full sentence "it has to be green" from the rest of the sentence, but a comma after "that" chops up the sentence too much for my liking.
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:06 pm (UTC)
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I see what you're saying, but "it has to be green" is NOT a full sentence here, even though it could be a full sentence on its own. The full sentence is "I hope you see that it has to be green." But maybe that's where people are coming from, that "it has to be green" looks like a sentence on its own, so they're fine putting a comma before it when it's not actually correct.

No matter how many people like not having the comma there, I'm going to continue to do what I think is the right thing in the books that I publish :-)
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From:jencallisto
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC)
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*nod* i can certainly see your argument for using both commas, as it makes the structure of the sentence more clear. i don't think the meaning of the sentence is made particularly more clear, though. i think i currently tend towards meaning>style>structure for much of my writing, but when working on textbooks i think it was more meaning>structure>style.
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)
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but when working on textbooks i think it was more meaning>structure>style

I hadn't thought about it this way, but that's definitely where I'm at when editing at work.
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From:magid
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:17 pm (UTC)

QP

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another way of thinking about is:
is s/b this
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)

Re: QP

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You only get half a point for suggesting the wrong correction. =P
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From:magid
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)

Re: QP

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Thbbbbt ;-P

Could've gone with the other one, but I'm not a mind reader.
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From:magid
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:31 pm (UTC)

Re: QP

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Plus, mine's not wrong.
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)

Re: QP

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It's not gramatically incorrect, but it's also not the one I meant to type.
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From:bubblebabble
Date:February 15th, 2006 01:13 am (UTC)

Re: QP

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you're just pissed that she found an error in your nitpicky proofreading post.
:-P
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From:beowabbit
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:28 pm (UTC)
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I think it's perfectly fine as-is, with no commas, or with commas in both places. The meaning is slightly different with two commas (but the same with one or no commas). Here's why:

You can say "In order for this to work it has to be green." You can also say "In order for this to work, it has to be green." No change in meaning; the comma is optional there.

Therefor you can say either "I hope you see that in order for this to work, it has to be green," or "I hope you see that in order for this to work it has to be green." What I hope you see is the entire statement "in order for this to work[,] it has to be green."

If you put commas in both places, though, then "in order for this to work" sounds more parenthetical to me. "I hope you see that it has to be green. (By the way, that's in order for this to work.)" Grammatically, "in order for this to work" still modifies "it has to be green", but it's set apart a little bit from the entire rest of the sentence.

I'd be most likely to leave out the commas altogether.
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
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You can say "In order for this to work it has to be green." You can also say "In order for this to work, it has to be green." No change in meaning; the comma is optional there.

Therefor you can say either "I hope you see that in order for this to work, it has to be green," or "I hope you see that in order for this to work it has to be green."


I don't think your "therefore" is valid. In your first example, the beginning of the sentence acts as a delimiter, so your conclusion doesn't follow from your hypothesis.

I'll buy your point that putting in two commas perhaps separates the clause a bit much from the rest of the sentence, but I still haven't heard a really satisfactory structural argument that allows for one comma.
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From:spwebdesign
Date:February 15th, 2006 08:24 am (UTC)
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but I still haven't heard a really satisfactory structural argument that allows for one comma

That's because there isn't one. People will go to extremes to justify how they write, but that doesn't make the single comma grammatically correct. The dependent clause in question is short enough that it need not be set off by commas, but if it is set off then commas are required on both sides of it. It's not simply a matter of stylistic choice, as some might argue, but a question of proper grammar.
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From:jarel
Date:February 14th, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC)
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I've no idea what the grammatical term for it might be, but isn't this because it's really a rearrangement of the parts of "I hope you see that it has to be green in order for this to work"?

Whatever the reason, I think it reads and sounds ok to me as is :)
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From:jarel
Date:February 14th, 2006 11:04 pm (UTC)
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Sorry, that seems to have got mangled somewhere between thinking about it and posting it. Never mind :)

Thinking about it a bit more, it perhaps just seems right to me because the comma reflects a pause in my natural speech pattern there. I don't know if it's the same for you.
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From:queue
Date:February 14th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
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It's hard for me to say what my normal speech pattern would be for a sentence like this because I don't think I use sentences that are constructed this way. And maybe that's part of the problem.
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From:bitty
Date:February 14th, 2006 11:48 pm (UTC)
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I agree with you. If you've got the one comma, ya need the other one.

It works without either, though, which is why it's such a PITA.
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From:bubblebabble
Date:February 15th, 2006 12:05 am (UTC)
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Actually, it doesn't work without any commas for me. It feels run-on. The first comma feels optional, because the sentence flows OK. The way I think of it is that the "that" drops you into the subordinate clause, just because of its grammatical function. However, there's no equivalent word in that sentence (or in this language for that matter, AFAIK) that brings you back out of the subordinate clause. Mind you, upon seeing the next verb, the reader realizes they need to reinterpret the garden path, but that's what commas are for.

Anyone who tells you otherwise has been reading too much German. :-) Or something.
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