Comma splices

Subject: Comma splices
From: Gary Merrill <merrill -at- HYPERION -dot- PDIAL -dot- INTERPATH -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 6 Jan 1996 01:46:15 GMT

Well, we all know that comma splices are bad, right? Perhaps not. Or
perhaps it is not clear what counts as a comma splice. I note what I regard
as s disturbing trend in regarding constructions with comma splices as
grammatically
acceptable. I wonder how far this has gone, and what your feelings are about
this. Consider ...

The sentence

First select "Edit", and then select "Cut".

is perfectly okay. I believe that likewise,

First select "Edit", and then "Cut".

is okay. But what about

First select "Edit", then select "Cut".

? To me, this screams "BAD GRAMMAR" and would have merited summary
execution from my 7th grade English teacher. Yet I see this kind of thing more
and more often (written by technical writers and passed by their editors). I
feel
that it is both ungrammatical (and am prepared to argue this with some
precision)
and detracts from readibility.

Stylistically, comma splices are tolerated in certain unusual and constrained
circumstances. A common example is:

I came, I saw, I conquered.

(Which, of course, I would *prefer* to render as

I came; I saw; I conquered.

or

I came. I saw. I conquered.

but never mind that preference.) However, such cases seem to be severely
restricted; and the guidelines for indulging in them typically warn that such
should
be done sparingly.

So, as trained and experienced writers, I wonder what both your experience
and inclinations are towards this sort of thing. More specifically, I am not so
much
interested in mere *opinion*, but rather in how one is to make a principled
decision
in such matters. I will not at this point divulge the results of my research in
this
area, but will open the floor for discussion and argument. Have at it.

Oh -- a word of warnig: beware the conjunctive adverb.

(When we're done with this, perhaps we can move on to "Next week, she will
deliver the draft to you and I." (which I recently saw used by a technical
writer and manager with over 20 years' experience).)

----------
Gary Merrill
DOD #1668

'95 GPz 1100


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