See that comma after the closed parenthesis in the title up there?
That’s where it belongs. This isn’t a style issue. It’s a mechanics rule in AmE. (I suspect it’s the same for BrE, but I couldn’t find an entry for it in my copy of the New Oxford Style Manual.)
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen someone write a sentence with a parenthetical intrusion and put the comma before the opening parenthesis, like this:
I was walking with my mom the other day, (doctor’s orders, you know, after her surgery) and we saw blah blah blah.
It looks so odd, I stop dead every time. Think about it like this. You’re talking along to a friend, okay? And you interrupt yourself mid-thought to add something, but that thing you’re adding actually belongs to what you just said, not to what you’re about to say. It’s semantically and syntactically linked to what came before. In my example, the comment about doctor’s orders is linked to walking with Mom, not to whatever thing we saw.
That’s why the comma goes after the closing parenthesis of the intrusion. We keep the related thoughts — the main one and the related intrusion — together by putting the comma afterward. (Of course, this is assuming you need a comma. I’m not going into the variations that don’t. This post is short (remember the title?), pithy, and about commas.
See? I just did it again in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. That’s how it’s done.
Made you look, didn’t I?
It’s true. A couple of years ago, I took a technical editing test for someone who runs an editorial services company, of which many clients are suppliers to the government. The test comprised a spelling section and a practical section. The latter was a six-page proposal (I’m sure there’s a special term for it, but I’m not aware of what it would be) in a Word file. The instructions were to edit for prose flow, AmE idiom (not use of idioms, per se, but “natural” wording), and GUMmy stuff.
I took my best shot, and sent it off. Continue reading “I failed an editing test.”
There’s a lot of discussion (I’m trying to be neutral, here) about FBI Director James Comey’s use of “nauseous” in the last day or two.
Pedants will shout that he should have said “nauseated,” because “nauseous” is only and ever used to mean “capable of creating nausea” (like some fumes, or some votes in the US House. But I digress).
I freely confess that I have used that argument. When I learn about a distinction I didn’t realize before, I tend to flail about with it, as one might do with a weapon they aren’t trained in. Or I did, a few years ago. The more I learn, the more I realize that I have been a PITA (Pedant In The Ass) to some folks. This is one of those cases.
Here’s a tweet from Lisa McLendon (@MadamGrammar) with a screen shot from Merriam-Webster. The usage note clearly explains that the words are indeed interchangeable, and have been for some time. The OED dates nauseous meaning “inclined to nausea” to 1604, and meaning “causing nausea” to 1612. Dates win, in my editorial book. (I haven’t written one. Don’t ask about it.)
Here’s how I handle this these days when I see “nauseous” in an editing project. If it makes sense to me, as an editor, that a character using the word is likely to care about the distinction, I suggest that in an editorial comment. Even the august Bryan A. Garner says that the usage “is becoming so common that to call it an error is to exaggerate” (Garner’s Modern English Usage, 4th edition, 2016).
We editors have more important issues to address than to worry about whether a character smells bad and makes others sick, or smells something bad that makes them sick. It’s not as if we can’t understand the intended meaning when Comey says he feels nauseous.
That’s a flat adverb. There’s no -ly on the end of it. There can be, sure, as “slowly,” but “slow” is used adverbially and there’s not a thing wrong with it under the right circumstances.
You’ll not find it in academic writing, or formal business writing, or legal writing. Those use a register sometimes called “frozen,” meaning there are certain expected phrasings that are never changed. Think about the language of a church ritual (the more rigid the denomination, the more likely you’ll hear that frozen register). It’s always said this way, never that way. It’s tradition. It’s frozen in time. Part of the hubbub about Vatican II was over the loss of the frozen register, changing from Latin to English (or whatever the local language was). “It’s not said the same now!” Nope, it’s not. But it means the same thing, right? (That’s really a different topic, so I’ll stop with the digression.)
As much as I love flat adverbs, I don’t push them where they’re neither wanted nor needed. If a client uses them, I do my best to leave them alone unless, as happens in some cases, they just don’t work well. If a client doesn’t use them, far be it from me to suggest them; it’s not my voice in their work. It’s their voice. Their work. My task is to provide clarity, and changing “slow” to “slowly” is unlikely to help. Ditto for changing “slowly” to “slow” unless, maybe, it’s in dialogue and I’ve got a handle on the character’s style and it makes sense to suggest the change. Not make it. Suggest it.
Here’s a well-written article about flat adverbs, over at Daily Writing Tips. I see no reason to write another one. I’m just putting it out there for folks that I’m a proponent of them in cases where they make good sense and sound natural. Note that not all adverbs can be flat, and not all flat adverbs mean the same thing as their -ly counterparts. Here’s one example from the linked article: You can dress sharp, or you can dress sharply, but you arrive at five o’clock sharp.
I expect this to become a series, so I’m numbering this post. If I’m wrong, well … I’ll come back later, in a year or two, and edit the title.
Aaaaanyway, let’s get to it.
This is about commas and adjectives. When you have a string of adjectives before a noun, how do you know if you need commas between them? (In grammar-speak, these are called coordinate or coordinating modifiers. No one remembers that, though, except for grammar geeks. Hence my choice to use plain language.) Continue reading “Commas: plain-language explanation #1”
(This is far from a complete set. I’m sure you, being the astute and creative readers you are, can come up with many more.)
Let’s take the “U mad bro” concept. We say that (or type it) when it’s clear someone’s taken offense because they’ve been called out on something. Continue reading “Register: Five examples”
Friday night, as I said last time, was the banquet. Because so many of us editor women have embraced colorful hair, there was a group photo taken before we were seated. Eleven of us assembled in front of the (old) ACES logo sign in the hallway for our moment of fame. The largest discussion focused on whether we should line up in ROYGBIV order. (We did not.) As most of us are purple of some flavor or other, we were in the middle, with the green, blue, orange, and ted on the outside. Molly McCowan (@InkbotEditor) has rainbow streaks in her blonde mane, and took center position. (I envy her ink.) Continue reading “ACES 2017: The rest of it”