Monthly Archives: November 2012

Comma usage and compound sentences.

To recap The Scribe’s recent tips regarding comma usage, the tip from October 31 concerned complex sentences, and the tip from November 14 concerned compound predicates.  Today we discuss comma usage and compound sentences.  *Applause*

A compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (or sometimes by a semicolon or colon).  A clause consists of a subject and a predicate.  The most common coordinating conjunctions are “and,” “but,” “or,” and “nor.”

Independent Clause:

Evie will go to the library.

[Coord. Conj.] Independent Clause:

[and] Jamie will go with her.

[Coord. Conj.] Independent Clause:

[or] Jamie will have to go later.

Not a Clause:

and research legislative history.  (This is a second predicate.)

The coordinating conjunctions in compound sentences should be preceded by a comma, e.g.:

  • Beth prepared a concise and well-researched brief, and the court dismissed her client from the lawsuit.
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.  (George Orwell)

EXCEPTION:  When the clauses are short and there is no danger of misreading, the comma may be omitted, e.g.:

  • Stephen did the research and Laura wrote the brief. 

Finally, compound sentences are sometimes separated by a semicolon (with or without a coordinating conjunction) or a colon, e.g.:

  • Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t go to yours.  (Yogi Berra)
  • It was dawn outside, a glowing gray, and birds had plenty to say out in the bare trees; and at the big window was a face and a windmill of arms.  (David Foster Wallace)
  • Arguments are to be avoided:  they are always vulgar and often convincing.  (Oscar Wilde)

That is all for now …

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Comma usage and compound predicates, oh my!

Today we discuss comma usage and compound predicates.  Every complete sentence contains two main parts:  a subject and a predicate.  The subject is what—or whom—the sentence is about (“Lord Vader …”), while the predicate tells something about the subject (“… dislikes incompetence.”).  As you can see, the predicate is the part of the sentence that contains the verb.  (Other sentence elements include direct and indirect objects, adverbs, and adjectives.)

Compound predicates are predicates that contain a series of verbs that modify the same subject.  They should be treated like any other series:  If there are three or more verbs, use commas; if there are only two, don’t, e.g.:

  • Lord Vader objected to the admiral’s remark, told him that his lack of faith was disturbing, and used the Force to great effect.
  • Pedro struck out each of the batters in order and went to the dugout for a breather.

That is all for now …

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Filed under Grammar, Punctuation