Comma splices -Reply

Subject: Comma splices -Reply
From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- SMTPLINK -dot- DELTECPOWER -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 08:20:30 -0800

See Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, Section I, especially
rule 6.

Bill Sullivan
bsullivan -at- deltecpower -dot- com

>>> Gary Merrill <merrill -at- HYPERION -dot- PDIAL -dot- INTERPATH -dot- NET> - 1/5/96 5:46
PM >>>
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.


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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