Comma Question

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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abitaman6363
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Comma Question

Postby abitaman6363 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:53 am

answered
Last edited by abitaman6363 on Mon Oct 25, 2010 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

terran1
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Re: Comma Question

Postby terran1 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:24 am

No. Not necessary and it doesn't clarify anything; therefore, not advised.

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bk1
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Re: Comma Question

Postby bk1 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:55 am

Not necessary, but I think it helps it flow.

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PDaddy
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Re: Comma Question

Postby PDaddy » Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:20 am

abitaman6363 wrote:Yet, the women of remote Pakistani villages have little social support to stave off transgressions and utterly no legal protection - should such transgressions occur. They retire each night, fearing their dreams are as unreachable as the lofty mountain peaks surrounding them.

Is the comma before "fearing" necessary?


terran1 wrote:No. Not necessary and it doesn't clarify anything; therefore, not advised.


I strongly disagree with this post by terran1, but it's just a difference in opinion.

The comma between "night" and "fearing" is needed. There is a causal relationship between the action of retiring and the reason (their fear). Hence, there should be a comma for emphasis. Having no comma would mean obscuring the causal relationship. The comma clarifies and emphasizes the relationship.

You may also want to add a comma after the word "yet". You also need a break of some sort between "protection" and "should". You could use a comma, but I suggest using a dash instead. It's a softer break that still does the job. It also tells the reader that the conditional statement that follows is unnecessary to complete the sentence yet still adds meaning.

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spaceman82
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Re: Comma Question

Postby spaceman82 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:35 am

I'm not sure I agree with PDaddy about the dash between "protection" and "should" really, but I do agree that a comma after "Yet" might be a good idea. As for the comma after "night," I think it could go either way depending on how you want the sentence to flow. I know nothing about the specific style conventions of personal statements though, just saying all of this as a general reader.

terran1
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Re: Comma Question

Postby terran1 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 3:00 am

It isn't black-and-white but I'm not sure I follow you, PDaddy:

1.) The existence of a causal relation alone is not enough to warrant the use of a comma

2.) How does the comma clarify the meaning? The dependent clause is obvioiusly referencing the independent. There just isn't any other way the sentence can be understood.

I can see why one may want it for the sake of flow, but in formal writing (i.e. not to be read aloud) one tends to see the comma ommitted in cases like this.

Re: "protection/should": No punctuation is technically necessary. IF you treat the "should transgressions occur" simply as a dependent clause, no need for anything. IF you treat it as a parenthetical phrase, THEN you require a punctuation. PDaddy's "--" in that case is TCR.

Either way, the message to the OP is that (as illustrated) it is a matter of choice--neither of which is wrong.

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PDaddy
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Re: Comma Question

Postby PDaddy » Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:19 am

terran1 wrote:It isn't black-and-white but I'm not sure I follow you, PDaddy:

1.) The existence of a causal relation alone is not enough to warrant the use of a comma

2.) How does the comma clarify the meaning? The dependent clause is obvioiusly referencing the independent. There just isn't any other way the sentence can be understood.

I can see why one may want it for the sake of flow, but in formal writing (i.e. not to be read aloud) one tends to see the comma ommitted in cases like this.

Re: "protection/should": No punctuation is technically necessary. IF you treat the "should transgressions occur" simply as a dependent clause, no need for anything. IF you treat it as a parenthetical phrase, THEN you require a punctuation. PDaddy's "--" in that case is TCR.

Either way, the message to the OP is that (as illustrated) it is a matter of choice--neither of which is wrong.


You are correct about the parenthetical phrase. I speak of both what is required AND what is a good stylistic choice. I suggest that everyone read "Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. I swear by it, as do many law school adcoms. I really cannot justify my stylistiuc choices by saying anything other than the following: I have made similar choices using the same logic and received accolades for my writing. I have won many awards at a top university for my writing.

I know I am not the only one on TLS who has accomplished these things, so don't mistake my comments to mean anything other than "it works". That having been said, there's more than one way to skin a cat. The one thing you cannot say is that I am "wrong".

Learning to avoid the same cliches and formulas in writing set you apart and should make adcoms take notice. Most people don't know how to use commas, colons, semicolons, and dashes properly. For example, how many people know that you must use a comma before any listed item in a series appearing after "third" (as I did in my list with "dashes")?

As for the "causal connection", try experimenting with my suggesation(s) and read aloud. You will begin to see what I mean. It's a sophisticated concept, one I am sure some people can relate to while others might not. Writing is about comfort and habits. What I am advising OP to do is experiment without going too far. This is a personal statement, after all, and OP needs to be comfortable with what he/she uses.

Get "Elements of Style", it will change your life.

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thesybarite
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Re: Comma Question

Postby thesybarite » Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:53 am

Wow. This site is a wealth of information.

Have just purchased the aforementioned on Ebay at your recommendation. Sounds like just what I need.

Cheers

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philosoraptor
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Re: Comma Question

Postby philosoraptor » Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:33 am

PDaddy wrote:
abitaman6363 wrote:Yet, the women of remote Pakistani villages have little social support to stave off transgressions and utterly no legal protection - should such transgressions occur. They retire each night, fearing their dreams are as unreachable as the lofty mountain peaks surrounding them.

Is the comma before "fearing" necessary?


terran1 wrote:No. Not necessary and it doesn't clarify anything; therefore, not advised.


I strongly disagree with this post by terran1, but it's just a difference in opinion.

The comma between "night" and "fearing" is needed. There is a causal relationship between the action of retiring and the reason (their fear). Hence, there should be a comma for emphasis. Having no comma would mean obscuring the causal relationship. The comma clarifies and emphasizes the relationship.

You may also want to add a comma after the word "yet". You also need a break of some sort between "protection" and "should". You could use a comma, but I suggest using a dash instead. It's a softer break that still does the job. It also tells the reader that the conditional statement that follows is unnecessary to complete the sentence yet still adds meaning.
No offense, PDaddy, but I think your writing awards may have come in spite of, not because of, your bizarre ideas about punctuation.

First, there is no causal relationship between "retire" and "fearing"; the latter simply modifies the former without implying any further relationship between the ideas. A comma there is good style. Better would be, "As they retire each night, they fear..."

On to the comma after "yet" and the suggested dash in the first sentence. As PDaddy mentioned, often the best way to choose punctuation in a sentence like that is not to check the rulebook but to read the sentence aloud. Is it natural to pause after "yet"? If not, skip the comma. Is it natural to pause for dramatic effect (by the way, a dash is the most emphatic break there is) after "protection"? If it's distracting, make it a "softer" break, such as a comma.

Of course, a real editor will tell you that it's just a poorly constructed sentence. You're mixing the indicative "have" in the apodosis (conclusion) of the condition with the subjunctive "should occur" in the protasis (introduction) -- not always wrong, but in this case more than a little awkward. I'd rewrite as "... and no legal protection when transgressions occur." (I'd also ask you what you mean by "transgressions occur" and tell you to use a less pompous phrase instead. And in the next sentence, take out "mountain" and change "them" to "the villages" to eliminate the ambiguity of the antecedent.)

By all means buy and read Strunk & White, but I advise against using it as your only or even primary writing authority. It is outdated, is often inexplicably and needlessly arbitrary, and does not take kindly to other established style guides. White's well-known rant about the "Charles' tonsils out" headline, for example, fails to mention that the apostrophe is mandatory for all reputable U.S. newspapers. So use it for what it is: a guide for beginning writers, not an exhaustive or authoritative style manual. You'll particularly appreciate, I think, the repeated exhortation to "omit needless words!"

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thesybarite
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Re: Comma Question

Postby thesybarite » Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:19 pm

Are there other books/guides that you'd recommend for grammar use?

I'm international (native English speaker), but am aware that my English education was woefully inadequate in this area. Also it's been a few years since I wrote academically.

Any suggestions appreciated, thanks

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philosoraptor
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Re: Comma Question

Postby philosoraptor » Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:40 pm

thesybarite wrote:Are there other books/guides that you'd recommend for grammar use?

I'm international (native English speaker), but am aware that my English education was woefully inadequate in this area. Also it's been a few years since I wrote academically.

Any suggestions appreciated, thanks
Sure. I can't vouch for the following two, but they might help:

For review or explanation of the basics, this is a top seller on Amazon and looks well reviewed: http://www.amazon.com/Only-Grammar-Book ... 1580628559

If you're starting law school and need a refresher, this one was recommended by my legal writing prof: http://www.amazon.com/Plain-English-Law ... 080&sr=8-2

For anything more advanced, you can't go wrong with Bryan Garner. His advice is always worth following.

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PDaddy
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Re: Comma Question

Postby PDaddy » Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:59 pm

philosoraptor wrote:
PDaddy wrote:
abitaman6363 wrote:Yet, the women of remote Pakistani villages have little social support to stave off transgressions and utterly no legal protection - should such transgressions occur. They retire each night, fearing their dreams are as unreachable as the lofty mountain peaks surrounding them.

Is the comma before "fearing" necessary?


terran1 wrote:No. Not necessary and it doesn't clarify anything; therefore, not advised.


I strongly disagree with this post by terran1, but it's just a difference in opinion.

The comma between "night" and "fearing" is needed. There is a causal relationship between the action of retiring and the reason (their fear). Hence, there should be a comma for emphasis. Having no comma would mean obscuring the causal relationship. The comma clarifies and emphasizes the relationship.

You may also want to add a comma after the word "yet". You also need a break of some sort between "protection" and "should". You could use a comma, but I suggest using a dash instead. It's a softer break that still does the job. It also tells the reader that the conditional statement that follows is unnecessary to complete the sentence yet still adds meaning.
No offense, PDaddy, but I think your writing awards may have come in spite of, not because of, your bizarre ideas about punctuation.

First, there is no causal relationship between "retire" and "fearing"; the latter simply modifies the former without implying any further relationship between the ideas. A comma there is good style. Better would be, "As they retire each night, they fear..."

On to the comma after "yet" and the suggested dash in the first sentence. As PDaddy mentioned, often the best way to choose punctuation in a sentence like that is not to check the rulebook but to read the sentence aloud. Is it natural to pause after "yet"? If not, skip the comma. Is it natural to pause for dramatic effect (by the way, a dash is the most emphatic break there is) after "protection"? If it's distracting, make it a "softer" break, such as a comma.

Of course, a real editor will tell you that it's just a poorly constructed sentence. You're mixing the indicative "have" in the apodosis (conclusion) of the condition with the subjunctive "should occur" in the protasis (introduction) -- not always wrong, but in this case more than a little awkward. I'd rewrite as "... and no legal protection when transgressions occur." (I'd also ask you what you mean by "transgressions occur" and tell you to use a less pompous phrase instead. And in the next sentence, take out "mountain" and change "them" to "the villages" to eliminate the ambiguity of the antecedent.)

By all means buy and read Strunk & White, but I advise against using it as your only or even primary writing authority. It is outdated, is often inexplicably and needlessly arbitrary, and does not take kindly to other established style guides. White's well-known rant about the "Charles' tonsils out" headline, for example, fails to mention that the apostrophe is mandatory for all reputable U.S. newspapers. So use it for what it is: a guide for beginning writers, not an exhaustive or authoritative style manual. You'll particularly appreciate, I think, the repeated exhortation to "omit needless words!"


You're nuts. LOL. First, most of the people on this site are beginners. Second, adcoms swear by Elements of Style, so if that's your audience, it pays to listen to reason. Additionally, commas are harder breaks, not softer ones. They move the reader to actually read the parentheticals instead of reminding the reader that the parenthetical is optional. Comma use should depend on how important it is that the reader take in the parenthetical "during" the reading of the sentence.

Actually, we are all correct. It really is a matter of preference. For the person who doubted my assertion that punctiuation changes meaning, read the following:

A. I feared succeeding beyond my widest dreams.

B. If I feared anything, it was the prospect of succeeding beyong my widest dreams.

C. My biggest fear - if I had a fear at all - was that I would succeed beyond my wildest dreams.

In terms of meaning, those are three very different sentences. In sentence A, you have a straight narrative that amounts to a throwaway line. The focus is on the writer and his fear. That fear could be one of many that he may discuss. There is less emphasis on success. In the second sentence, the writer uses a comma to elevate the "fear of success" above other possible fears. "Fearing anything", as he puts it, and then naming "success", puts the emphasis squarely on success.

In the third sentence, the dash isolates the prospect that the writer questions whether he was really afraid, and minimizes the fear, even though it still plays an important role in the message of the sentence. There are two sentences in one, and the reader has more to chew on.

This is what I mean by using the dash and creating meaning through punctuation. Depending on the overall tone and message of the personal statement, I would advise different methods of punctuation. For the record, my writing accolades awards are too numerous to be flukes. :wink: Writing is a game I know well. PDaddy doesn't talk out of his ass. OP, if you want to write a winning personal statement, hit me with a PM and we can talk.
Last edited by PDaddy on Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

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sundance95
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Re: Comma Question

Postby sundance95 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:02 am

Keep it.

Pablo Ramirez
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Re: Comma Question

Postby Pablo Ramirez » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:06 am

PDaddy wrote:For the record, my writing accolades awards are too numerous to be flukes. :wink: Writing is a game I know well. PDaddy doesn't talk out of his ass. OP, if you want to write a winning personal statement, hit me with a PM and we can talk.


Ahahahahaha!

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BLi
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Re: Comma Question

Postby BLi » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:17 am

abitaman6363 wrote:
Is the comma before "fearing" necessary?


In an effort to skip the pedantry, please see this short answer that is definitely correct: the comma is unnecessary.

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sundance95
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Re: Comma Question

Postby sundance95 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:19 am

BLi wrote:
abitaman6363 wrote:
Is the comma before "fearing" necessary?


In an effort to skip the pedantry, please see this short answer that is definitely correct: the comma is unnecessary.


Correct, but the sentence is better with it.

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BLi
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Re: Comma Question

Postby BLi » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:21 am

sundance95 wrote:
BLi wrote:
abitaman6363 wrote:
Is the comma before "fearing" necessary?


In an effort to skip the pedantry, please see this short answer that is definitely correct: the comma is unnecessary.


Correct, but the sentence is better with it.

even if that was true, that's not the question yo.

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sundance95
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Re: Comma Question

Postby sundance95 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:24 am

BLi wrote:even if that were true, that's not the question yo.


FTFY. You're correct in that it is not the explicit question, but OP clearly wants to know whether he should keep the comma, which he should.

Edit: I'm wondering if this was a subtle and well-executed flame. If so, bravo.

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BLi
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Re: Comma Question

Postby BLi » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:26 am

sundance95 wrote:
BLi wrote:even if that were true, that's not the question yo.


FTFY. You're correct in that it is not the explicit question, but OP clearly wants to know whether he should keep the comma, which he should.


please do not assume.
you know the rest.

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2ofspades
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Re: Comma Question

Postby 2ofspades » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:45 am

The comma discussion is dead, so I'll point out that I would change "should" to "when" and that I don't like "utterly."

But, man - if that's tied closely to your interest in law or to your background, I certainly hope you end up in my section next year.

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philosoraptor
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Re: Comma Question

Postby philosoraptor » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:55 am

PDaddy wrote:You're nuts. LOL.
For the record, my editing accolades awards are too numerous to be flukes. :roll: Editing is a game I know well. Philosoraptor doesn't talk out of his ass.

PDaddy wrote:Additionally, commas are harder breaks, not softer ones. They move the reader to actually read the parentheticals instead of reminding the reader that the parenthetical is optional. Comma use should depend on how important it is that the reader take in the parenthetical "during" the reading of the sentence.
Sentences 2 and 3 don't make any sense, and your own examples disprove sentence 1. Which of the following emphasizes the parenthetical more?

(a) My biggest fear, if I had a fear at all, was ...
(b) My biggest fear -- if I had a fear at all -- was ...

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2ofspades
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Re: Comma Question

Postby 2ofspades » Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:03 am

2ofspades wrote:The comma discussion is dead

...or so I had hoped.




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