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21 July 2008 @ 05:32 pm
Great fairies of fiction II, the Punctuation Pixies, Part A  
A long time ago I wrote the first in what was going to be a regular series of posts looking at all the magical little bits that come together to make a good piece of writing. I had intended the delay before the next installment to be less than 10 months, but you've all met me and my inability to remember to finish things.

SO, punctuation marks: the footsoldiers of communication. I've called them pixies because they are a tricksy little bunch. They look all friendly and sweet, but if not treated with respect, they can reveal their gnashy little teeth and go you.

That said, the rules of punctuation are not difficult. There is some room for flexibility and personal style, and some degree of interpretation on the basis of nationality and formality of communication. I'm going to give a basic introduction and rule set below, but with a slant towards fiction. And while 20 years ago I would have given a long description of the differences between English and American standards, the internet has seen those differences start to crumble. In addition, some styles that are rigidly adhered to in books are not used at all in newspapers or magazines. I'll mention a few, but for the most part I am using the styles most commonly used in publishing.

There are two levels of 'rules' for punctuation. The first level consists of actual rules, the second level is a matter of style. While most of the below are rules that should be followed, I have mentioned some style points beyond just the national styles, each is marked as such.

Learn the rules and use punctuation clearly and your beta will be happier, your writing smoother, and the mods at certain archives will have nothing to whine about.

Now I am writing from my position as a professional writer and editor of over 20 years' experience, but the one thing that experience has taught me as a certainty is that whenever one makes declarations on this topic, there will be others who disagree passionately. If you have a serious disagreement with any of the following that you would like to discuss at more length that the comments allow, feel free to get in touch via blamebrampton at gmail dot com and yes, there are almost certainly typos in this entry, my typing is rubbish. Feel free to mention them and I'll edit.


The full stop/ the period/ the end stop
This is the building block of the sentence. A sweet, easy punctuation symbol, it finishes off most sentences and can also be used to show a contraction and an abbreviation.

This second usage is mostly falling out of use. Where it was once appropriate to write Mr. D. Malfoy, Esq., one would now write Mr D. Malfoy in the same circumstance [although as esmestrella kindly reminds me, Americans would clutch those periods to their gentle bosoms]. Indicating an initial is the major remaining use of the period other than ending a sentence.


The comma
The most popular punctuation symbol, this is another one that is hard to get wrong. It's used inside a sentence, to indicate a pause, usually between clauses. The rule of thumb that I was always taught as a child is that a comma should be used wherever you pause in a sentence.

Now there are sometimes better options than the comma. The colon, semicolon and dash entries below will cover off these options. In general, a comma works where you are still talking about the same main idea, but need to break up the sentence.

* You might need to break it to indicate that another piece of evidence is being added to the idea of your sentence:
Harry looked at Draco and tried to find any sign that he was lying, but his eyes were clear, his gaze earnest, and his brow frowning with his desperation to convey this truth.

* You should use commas to break up simple lists, which are all elements of the one idea:
Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Neville were all seated at the dinner table when Seamus walked in.

For really short lists, you sometimes don't need a comma. So while the classic it was a dark, stormy night should take a comma, the bad-tempered blond wizard does not require one, as the terms in that list are acting together, rather than strictly as a list.

In most cases there is no need for a comma before the final 'and' in a list separated by commas, but sometimes the sentence works better if you add one, such as:
We had dinner with Harry and Draco, Ron and Hermione, and Neville and Hannah.

I know that Americans love the Oxford comma, which is what the comma before an 'and' (such as the one above) is called, my theory is that it generally does no harm.

* You should also use commas to set off some words from the rest of the sentence:
Hermione had had enough of Ron and Harry, and Draco, too.
However, if you steal a Gringotts dragon, you must expect heavy penalties for future early withdrawals.
Goddamit, you have got to be joking.

* You should use a comma in most cases before or after direct speech:
Draco said, "I cannot possibly be seen in public with your hair."
"I cannot possibly be seen in public with your ego," Harry replied.

* You should use commas in pairs to break out weak interruptions to a sentence.
Grimmauld Place, which was the most miserable house Draco had ever set foot in, had the virtue of being well-protected by wards.
And use single commas to break off these sorts of interruptions to a sentence when they occur at the beginning or the end:
Though it was the most miserable house Draco had set foot in, Grimmauld place had the virtue of being well protected.

* You can also use a comma to show that two or more ideas are all part of the one idea or experience:
Draco was trying to stay alive, Narcissa was lying for Harry, Lucius was simply trying to protect his family.
though often a semi-colon is useful for this sort of sentence when the clauses/ideas are longer or less closely related.

* Finally, there are some 'rules' to the comma that are actually bollocks. The three that are trotted out the most are that you should never use a comma before an 'and', and that you always need a comma before 'but' and before 'which'.

Commas before 'and' are actually fine, both when used in a complicated list as above, and if they are functioning as any other comma would function. Just like that one there.

While a comma before a but is often a fine and worthy thing, it can also be unnecessary in short sentences where the meaning is clear:
He was tall but not gangly.
Sometimes the comma helps in short sentences like this, it's a matter of rhythm:
She was short, but did not look it.

As to which, the rule is that you need a comma before a which every time that it is being used in a nonrestrictive clause. This is a clause (a part of a sentence) that adds information that is not essential, like this one:
The tenth anniversary, which Harry was avoiding, was the best-attended ceremony yet.

For restrictive clauses, ones that add meaning that is essential to the sentence, you don't need a comma. These are all cases where the which could be replaced by that. Such as:
It was the emotion which was furthest from Harry's mind at this time.

So if which could be replaced by that, no comma. If it needs to be which, you need the comma.

ETA
The ever-courteous catsintheattic asked for more clarification on this point. Here is some. The that/which thing is all about the information. If it is essential to the sentence, then it's best to use that, though you can use which, and either way you don't need a comma. So you don't need commas in sentences like:

The shirt that Harry was wearing was tattered and torn.
The diary which Harry was carrying belonged to Tom Riddle.

In the second case, the which could (and probably should) be replaced with a that. Journalists use which all the time because they think it makes them sound important.

But you do need commas in these:
The diary, which Ginny had previously thrown down the loo, belonged to Tom Riddle.
Harry was wearing his enormous shirt, which had been handed down by Dudley on the basis that it was 'crap'.

In each of these cases the additional information is not essential to the sentence, and the which could not be replaced with a that.

The colon
Not a part of the digestive system (BOOM BOOM!), this is a more significant internal pause than the comma, and used in very particular ways. Most often, it is used to introduce a specification. So:
Draco Malfoy had one simple imperative: survive.
Harry had rescued many people in his life: Draco Malfoy was just another person.

In all of these cases, the second part of the sentence follows on directly from the first

You can also use a colon when you reverse a specification and the rest of the sentence.
Survival: that was the only thing that was essential to Draco now.

Colons are also used to introduce lists:
There were many options now: become an Auror, study advanced DADA, convince Draco to live in the study as his sex slave … Harry was finding it hard to decide.

Colons are also used at the beginning of lists of examples:
Like this
And this

Colons can also introduce quotations:
As Harry Potter was fond of saying: "He may be an ex-Death Eater, but he's a very tasty ex-Death Eater."


The semicolon
From the abuse it often suffers, you might think this is the tricksiest punctuation mark of them all, but it is in fact relatively simple to use. The semicolon is used to separate independent clauses within a sentence. So:
Harry was jubilant; Draco despondent.
OR
The death of Voldemort marked the end of Draco's planned life; from hereon in he was free and unfettered, able to choose for himself.

Note that these two clauses could be shifted around to function as separate sentences, but by putting them together, more meaning is generated through their proximity. And usually there is a better rhythm to the prose than you would manage by spelling out the ideas in separate sentences, too.

Semicolons can also be used within complicated lists that contain internal commas. Like this:
"Right," said Ron. "This is how everyone met: Hermione and I were best friends at school who fell in love while hunting Death Eaters; Hannah and Neville were shy, retiring types who bonded over a shared love of heroic stances and absinthe; and Harry and Draco were lifelong enemies, though we always had our suspicions, who were thrown together in unlikely situations where shagging was the only narratively satisfying outcome. So how did you meet your wife?"

See? Easy!

The exclamation mark/point
In newspapers and mags these are often called screamers or slammers (or indeed a dog's cock, I am told, in less genteel circles). They are considered something to be removed wherever possible, and I have to say that this is not a prejudice without reason. They are usually a sign of bad writing and stop you looking for more imaginative ways to convey apprehension in particular, compare:
"But there are Death Eaters everywhere! It's not safe!"
with:
"So we walk into the Ministry and walk out again, and no one will notice a thing. Sure. That sounds like a brilliant plan. Let's rob Gringotts while we're at it."
or even:
Harry listened carefully to the plan. Hermione was right, there was no choice but to go into the Ministry. He hoped he didn't look as ill as he felt.

That said, they have their purposes.
"No!"
Molly snatched her hand back, and Arthur bustled past her to throw a hessian sack over the gnome.
"Sorry, love, that one's been frothing at the mouth all day and Ron thinks it has rabies."

or

"Ron!" Hermione squeaked. "Other people can see where your hands are!"

Interjections are a special case and can often be followed by an exclamation mark without any problems. So, Bah! Gah! Argh! and Yay! are all perfectly fine and can be used freely so long as you do not go completely bananas with them.


The question mark
This one is pretty obvious. If it's a question, it's best to conclude it with a question mark. While the English question mark lacks the subtlety of the Spanish, it is a very helpful little mark. On the whole, it is used at the end of any sentence that you would say out loud in an interrogative fashion.

"Are you wearing that?" "Do you think he has a Dark Mark?" "Were the Death Eaters wholly committed to Voldemort, or did they begin as a movement more concerned with traditional Wizarding values?"

You can also use a question mark within a sentence to show that a part of that sentence is a question.

Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy took three years to return to their post-war position in society – and did it feel the same to them? who can say? – but were never again as prominent in Ministry politics after the War.

Some questions don't need a question mark.
Harry wondered if he would ever know an easy night's sleep, but supposed it would be a question better answered once Voldemort had been dealt with.
"He wants to know if you took the mark, Draco. Keep your sleeves down."


The ellipsis
This is the name for those three dots that you use to indicate something trailling off or missing. They look like this: … and note that there are three dots, not four, not five, three. On a Mac, this symbol is option + ; which may well be control + ; on a PC, this exercise is left to reader. azurelunatic reminds me in comments that much of the world lives in an html age:
…
will do the trick there.

Ellipses are fun when used with restraint. They stand in place of words or letters that have been omitted and there are slightly different rules for how they are used depending on whether they stand for words or symbols. When words are omitted (including when shortening a quotation) or a sentence trails off, there are spaces before and after the ellipsis. When letters are omitted from a word, there are no spaces, unless the missing letters are at the end of a word in which case no spaces before, but a space afterwards, unless it's at the end of a piece of speech, when the quotation marks will be hard up against the ellipsis (i.e. no space).

I know that you Americans love to butt all of your ellipses up, eschewing spaces, but this fails to preserve a useful distinction in the usage. And it looks ugly, too.

Oxford insist you should add a full stop after an ellipsis at the end of a sentence. But this is madness and a rule that is fast falling out of use in English publishing. Outside of OUP, I am hard-pressed to think of anywhere that still firmly believes in this style.

I realise that this is all sounding a bit complicated, so just follow these examples.

1. Trailling off. "I don't know why I'm following him, he's just …" Draco shrugged, there was no way to explain it.
2. Words missing. "This is the BBC World Service. Tonight in … earthquake has shaken … many feared dead … our man on the scene …" George fiddled with the radio, but there was no improving the reception.
3. Letters missing. "Harry, have you seen my hairbr… Oh you must be joking."
OR "You f…cked up, maggot-breathed c…ck!" Charlie censored himself.
OR "I'm falling asleep, talk more tomor…"

Part B will be written shortly (er, probably) and will look at the apostrophe, the quotation mark, the dash, the hyphen, the parenthesis, the square bracket and anything else that I can remember I've forgotten between now and then.
 
 
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
 
 
 
maggie: HP Pimp Canemarguerite_26 on July 21st, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC)
Squee!!! *bookmarks*

I is not, so good at: these things;
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
HAHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, exactly.

I thought I would write it down in the firm belief that my years of pain in trying to explain to journalists and writers how these things work should at last be used for the forces of good, rather than the evil of corporate publishing.
(no subject) - marguerite_26 on July 21st, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - empress_jae on July 21st, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marguerite_26 on July 21st, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - empress_jae on July 21st, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - romaine24 on July 21st, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
not your typical annihilatrix: General: Writingfuriosity on July 21st, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
I have to wonder why the "never before and" + "always before but!" "rules" exist at all, seeing as they're both about conjunctions, which always function exactly the same way in any sentence, at least as far as punctuation goes.

Out of curiosity: what are your thoughts on the comma splice? :P (I subscribe to Lynne Truss's "only do it if you're famous" rule, i.e. I run in horror from comma splices.)

Fun fact: The Betas Anonymous Punctuation Pixies were a Quidditch team at The Witching Hour and Phoenix Rising, and they're also going to be at Terminus. :>
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
I think that most bad punctuation rules can be put down to the fact that schoolteachers often turn to drink. I have long been tempted to make up rules such as "sentences may only contain a maximum of 40 words" and "you may only use endashes if you have passed the test".

I can live with comma splices if you are a poet, the Bible, or an Amis. Maybe frayach at a pinch.

I so wish I was going to Terminus. I'd bring my Fowler's and everything!

glorafinglorafin on July 21st, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
The post I've been waiting for, without knowing I was waiting for it. And timely, since I'm going to reopen my career as a fic writer. :)

For someone whose first language is French, the use of commas in English is quite surprising. May I ask you two questions about it?

- The comma before "too" really puzzles me. Does it have to be "I love you, too" for instance? It seems so unnecessary to have a pause there. In one of your examples, you wrote (insert a comma here if needed)
"Hermione had had enough of Ron and Harry, and Draco, too."
Does it mean Draco, like Hermione, had had enough of Ron and Harry (in which case I can understand the need for a comma as the reader has to think back to the whole sentence to understand it) or simply that Hermione had had enough of Draco (in which case I don't understand the need for it)?

- The other problems I have with commas is its use alongside quotes. Let's take your two examples :
1) Draco said, "I cannot possibly be seen in public with your hair."
I can easily live with that. French would use nothing or a colon after 'said', but why not a comma? After all, it's another language, it's allowed a few quirks. :)

2) "I cannot possibly be seen in public with your ego," Harry replied.
That looks really ugly to me. I can see no logical explanation why the comma should be BEFORE the quote. Everything behind quotes is a quote, so the punctuation marks of the overall sentence, should be outside the quote. Would it be wrong to write it like below?
"I cannot possibly be seen in public with your ego", Harry replied.

It's still not perfect, as the quoted sentence does not have a full stop at the end of it, but I find it much more satisfying.

Thanks for any answers.

Cheers.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
You have elegantly put your finger on the key differences between French and English. French is a language controlled by an Academy with firmly constructed rules that are logical. English is a language that has long thought about having some coherent rules, but since it failed to come by most of its words legitimately, may need to give some of them back were it to try and impose any structure at this point.

As a general rule of thumb, English is just weird, and you can get away with murder if you can explain it well and provide enough examples.

In the first case, strictly speaking, you would have a comma in "I love you, too." But it's not confusing to leave it out, and it is often left out in usage. I think it is more American to omit it, more British to include.

In the second case, it is wrong in standard English to put the comma after the quotation marks. This is because in English the speech act within the quotation marks has its own punctuation.

So if the sentence ends, as in the first example, the full stop is inside the quotation marks, rather than outside. And if the sentence doesn't end, the comma, question mark or exclamation mark are also within the quotation marks, attached to the speech act.

There is an exception to this rule, when the speech act is a fragment within a larger sentence:
Harry heard Draco's mumbled "get lost"; he sat and waited for his former schoolmate to fully regain consciousness.

Hope this helps!
(no subject) - glorafin on July 21st, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - glorafin on July 21st, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
parallel parking prodigyempress_jae on July 21st, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
ha! The comma and exclaimation point sections need to be posted everywhere. i recall reading a fic that was very good. could've been a classic, however the author had harry screaming through out the whole story.

blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
It's the preferred punctuation of the emo generation.
(no subject) - pingrid on July 21st, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pingrid on July 21st, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pingrid on July 21st, 2008 05:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pingrid on July 21st, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pingrid on July 21st, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
beatnikspinster on July 21st, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC)
This is very useful. Thanks for posting. *adds to memories*
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
You are very welcome.
Camden: Brainabusing_sarcasm on July 21st, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
This should be required reading. And I say that as a beta. :D

My favorite part has to be the ellipses. I'm guilty of abusing them, purely for decorative purposes, apparently, in blog posts, comments and such. However, it is important to remember that they have a real function! *snork* I do try to reign it in when doing "real" writing, though...

*gasp*

I did it again.

Also, this:

"Ron!" Hermione squeaked. "Other people can see where your hands are!"

Best example ever. :D

An English teacher once told me that on the topic of exclamation points, you should read your work back out loud and only use an exclamation point if you're moved to actually shout the phrase in question. Although this only works if you're good at dramatic reading.

And now I'm sure people have a hilarious mental picture of me standing in my living room reading Runway out loud, shouting things like "Oh, gods! Yes! Put it in my ass!" in a very dramatic fashion like some sort of deranged pornographic orator.

Which I DON'T. I just apply the rule mentally, thank you very much. Otherwise my husband would leave me.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
I had a sensible reply to this, but am now too busy laughing.
Vaysh Swiftstorm: H/D_blushvaysh on July 21st, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
Added to memories - this is great, thank you!!

I find it interesting that the German translation for "comma splice" - a concept I just heard of in these comments ;-) - is simply "comma mistake".

I think that most bad punctuation rules can be put down to the fact that schoolteachers often turn to drink. Or to the members of committees discussing spelling reform. Who may be the same people, actually.

A hessian sack? Seriously? That just cracked me up!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
I like to keep my examples amusing, it helps stop readers dying of boredom.

I don't think it's fair for speakers of other European languages to discuss English grammar, it shows up all of its lunacy. On the upside of English, it's terribly easy to understand what other people are saying, even with most mistakes!
Shivshiv5468 on July 21st, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
I do love me some spaces round my ellipses... and my hyphens.

I know one archive that insists on the full stop after an ellipsis.
Bubbaabsynthedrinker on July 21st, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
Fascist Bastards!

Peace,

Bubba
(no subject) - shiv5468 on July 21st, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on July 21st, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gabe_speaks on December 13th, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 14th, 2008 12:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - absynthedrinker on July 21st, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shiv5468 on July 21st, 2008 07:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - absynthedrinker on July 21st, 2008 07:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shiv5468 on July 21st, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - absynthedrinker on July 21st, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shiv5468 on July 21st, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shiv5468 on July 22nd, 2008 06:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 09:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shiv5468 on July 22nd, 2008 11:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shiv5468 on July 22nd, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
rickey_a: Spin the Bottlerickey_a on July 21st, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
*hugs* and saves,
yet I know I will continue to make a mockery of punctuation in my fics. I do try, really.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
It's all right, that's what betas are for.
oopsoddishly on July 21st, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
Ooh, this is interesting, thanks for posting! I never realised ellipses were so complicated - am a little terrified of reading about dashes and hyphens ...

I've got the best image in my head of beta readers turning this post into a kind of writing bible. You know: 'Refer to Chapter II, Part A, Point 4i(a) of BB's "Great Fairies of Fiction", then report back to me re: paragraphs one to seven; ten; fourteen to twenty; and forty four onwards.' Etc.

Or maybe I'll make some pithy remarks on the next badfic I read. Except that would send the authors to your journal, and y'know, that would be mean. ;)

(And I'm absolutely refusing to let myself check this post for correct punctuation, else I'd be here all night *g*)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 21st, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
Hyphens actually ARE easy, as opposed to the things I just declare are easy. Dashes are a bit more subject to interpretations of style ...

You know, I could have organised this better if I was thinking of people referring to it. Oh well.
carnadosacarnadosa on July 22nd, 2008 12:39 am (UTC)
Wait, so the oxford comma is if you put a comma before the and? I thought that was a Brit thing, not a US thing. I was never taught to do that, which is why I think it looks redundant.

Though I have to admit I always chain my ellipses (and completely overuse them as well, kinda like these parentheses. 9 out of 10 instances of written communication contain at the very least one set. Sometimes I have to use all three brackets for nesting purposes. :P )
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
That's right. And it has one of those trans-Atalantic histories that so many parts of English have. The Oxford comma is all over UK English in the 19th century, jumps a steamship to the publications of the New World around that time, and sets up shop there happily.

These days it has a small group of fanatical adherents, mostly posh US publishers and schoolteachers from the better class of school, while there is also a militant group who believe is must die and will expunge it wherever possible, mostly journalists and teachers who are keen on postmodernism.

Ellipsis abuse is tragically common these days. I have considered starting a charity ;-)
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on July 22nd, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
The use of OS-specific punctuation in the HTML environment is deprecated. … (…) is the way to go.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)
Good point, I was thinking of Word/Pages since that is where most people write. I'll make a note above!
(no subject) - azurelunatic on July 22nd, 2008 03:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 03:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - azurelunatic on July 22nd, 2008 03:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 03:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - azurelunatic on July 22nd, 2008 03:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 03:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - azurelunatic on July 22nd, 2008 04:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
It's a Deensedeensey on July 22nd, 2008 03:02 am (UTC)
Would you kill me if I posted a link to this somewhere?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)
So long as it's for your fandom peeps and not the peeps who know me as a serious grown-up ;-)
(no subject) - deensey on July 22nd, 2008 03:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 03:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - deensey on July 22nd, 2008 03:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
Blindmouse: scribbleblindmouse on July 22nd, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
I have only skimmed this, because I had quite enough punctuation revision in class last night and my eyes glazed, but I just had to say:

Harry was jubilant; Draco despondent.

Lol, because this was one of the classic examples of where to use a colon that I was taught - where there's a one-one relationship of either equivalence or contrast.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
Interesting! You know that may be a perfectly valid variant from the set of Deep Rules that I was taught. I never say never with punctuation, since there are so many established usages that you will always come up against a mass of evidence that goes against any proscriptive statement.

I have an Australian style guide at home, will dig into it tonight to see what the locals believe about semicolons (because goodness knows I can never remember which English I am speaking these days).

Hope the weather has improved!
(no subject) - blindmouse on July 22nd, 2008 03:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 03:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
Meredythmeredyth_13 on July 22nd, 2008 08:10 am (UTC)
My old old old school upbringing is whispering to me that you maybe shouldn't use 'Mr' with 'Esq'... that they cancel each other out. But my old old old school upbringing is, by its very nature, old. As such, it is prone to error. And gratuitous use of ...

*hugs*

*hides*

Oh! and the word I was looking for was, I think, sorrowfully. I will remember why I had to mention this to you - any day now! Honestly. :D

Now I will actually read your wonderful post, probably bookmark it, and still fail!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 08:27 am (UTC)
In fact, your old school schooling is strictly correct according to formal ways of thinking. However, using both was immensely common through the seventeenth century, which is one of the two centuries I crib most of my jokes from ;-)

Yay for hugs!

Boo for sorrow. Have some more YAY!
Meredythmeredyth_13 on July 22nd, 2008 09:07 am (UTC)
I solemnly swear to put a space before my gratuitous ellipsis use, and to concentrate on placement of commas, full stops, and those pesky other bits.

Will you still respect me in the morning? (note correct placement of question mark of lesser distinction than a Spanish question mark, but still quite useful).

This has been bookmarked as "Punctuation Pixies" in my browser. You rock!

*worries about use of exclamation mark*

*worries about use of asterixes (and the plural of asterix) to denote personal action*

*hugs you more anyway - with questionable spelled asterixes*
Meredythmeredyth_13 on July 22nd, 2008 09:08 am (UTC)
*can apparently also spell questionably questionably when under duress*
(no subject) - blamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Catscatsintheattic on July 22nd, 2008 09:16 am (UTC)
Great fairies of fiction II, the Punctuation Pixies, Part A
First: I love you and want to have your grammar babies!

Second: two questions, if I may?

So if which could be replaced by that, no comma. If it needs to be which, you need the comma.

So, what exactly is the rule about replacing "which" with "that"? I keep wondering, lately. You said a bit about it, but I don't fully get it. Is it just the thing about additional information, or is there something else to consider?

Harry was jubilant; Draco despondent.

I get the general rule, but why would the second part be regarded as an independent clause? There is no verb in it. I know, of course, that the verb is "was", but it isn't written. *is puzzled*

I'm so much looking forward to the next part. This is extremely helpful, especially because I'm not a native speaker and really want to treat my betas as well as I possibly can. :-)

I'm just curious: would you change any punctuation marks I used in this post?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Great fairies of fiction II, the Punctuation Pixies, Part A
Would those be grabies? They sound like a tasty savoury food!

Sorry about the confusion, I will write these posts late at night. The that/which thing is all about the information. If it is essential to the sentence, then it's best to use that, though you can use which, and either way you don't need a comma. So you don't need commas in sentences like:

The shirt that Harry was wearing was tattered and torn.
The diary which Harry was carrying belonged to Tom Riddle.

In the second case, the which could (and probably should) be replaced with a that. Journalists use which all the time because they think it makes them sound important.

But you do need commas in these:
The diary, which Ginny had previously thrown down the loo, belonged to Tom Riddle.
Harry was wearing his enormous shirt, which had been handed down by Dudley on the basis that it was 'crap'.

In each of these cases the additional information is not essential to the sentence, and the which could not be replaced with a that. Is that clearer?

For your second question, it's another one of those cases in which English frankly cheats. Although the verb is not present in the second clause, it is nevertheless clear, so it's treated as though it is. This is why non-English speakers need to accept that it will never make perfect sense, and that all those cultural stereotypes you whisper privately have some basis in fact. But we make excellent tea.

Randy: English Puritydrgaellon on July 22nd, 2008 11:49 am (UTC)
I know that Americans love the Oxford comma, which is what the comma before an 'and' (such as the one above) is called, my theory is that it generally does no harm.
I find it interesting that a style preferred in America is named for a British university...
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)
It's another one that jumped on a steamship and never came home. Pretty much everything that UK-English speakers dismiss as an Americanism was once standard UK usage, including color and aluminum. Though admittedly the latter was very short-lived.
some kind of snark faeryshyfoxling on July 23rd, 2008 12:57 am (UTC)
Are you Karen Elizabeth Gordon in disguise? Your examples are all making me giggle. They need little woodcut-like illustrations.

Where it was once appropriate to write Mr. D. Malfoy, Esq., one would now write Mr D. Malfoy in the same circumstance.

Americans use the periods. (I point this out because you made a number of other comparisons to Americanisms, so I thought it was odd to skip this one.)

"Where the Death Eaters wholly committed to Voldemort, or did they begin as a movement more concerned with traditional Wizarding values?"

I don't know, "where" were they? ;)

I know that you Americans love to butt all of your ellipses up, eschewing spaces

Yes, the same way I do not put a space before a comma or period. Personally, I think doing so, rather than omitting it, is what looks ugly, partly because it often forces the ellipsis alone onto the next line and leaves the word hanging, as was demonstrated in your first example at the font size I am set to. (Full stop after an ellipsis is "madness", I agree.)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 23rd, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
Do you know that I have never read her and had to look her up? And now I am entranced and will be ordering copies! And you are quite right that everything is better with woodcuts.

Good point on the periods, I'll edit, and thank you for picking up the typo, I did say I would have some in there!

And yes, ellipses will always be governed by style, but I find the American fashion really confusing when it comes to showing omitted text. Did the original speaker just trail off or were there originally more words there? Often it's hard to tell!
(no subject) - shyfoxling on July 23rd, 2008 06:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
zile61zile61 on July 23rd, 2008 04:05 am (UTC)
such cleverness
Ok - you can even make grammar entertaining! Somehow, I think that if my H.S. English teacher had used examples such as this "Colons are also used to introduce lists:
There were many options now: become an Auror, study advanced DADA, convince Draco to live in the study as his sex slave … Harry was finding it hard to decide." then perhaps I would have actually retained some of those rules... Needless to say, whatever you write, I will read and enjoy :) To learn something? Priceless. Thanks.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 23rd, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
Re: such cleverness
Thank you! Punctuation is so generally dull that I feel a certain duty to make it amusing rather than have readers fall asleep ... Also, when I first moved to Sydney I used to tutor giant Lebanese boys in English. I learned very quickly that they would remember anything that involved sex, comedy, or a catchy rhyme, and nothing else. I adopted that as a good general rule!
elsa12790 on July 23rd, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
I absolutely *adored* your examples. I get a lot of pleasure out of grammar treatises, being rather obsessive in that direction, but the examples added a sublimely satisfying flavor to these.

A question and a comment, now.

Thank you for this example; it's something I've been wondering about recently and I do believe I've done it incorrectly:

There is an exception to this rule, when the speech act is a fragment within a larger sentence:
Harry heard Draco's mumbled "get lost"; he sat...

And a question:

"I don't know why I'm following him, he's just …" Draco shrugged, there was no way to explain it.

I think I might have put a semi-colon after the "shrugged;" is this too pedantic? I can tell it's not a comma splice, but there's something that just seems more stoppish than a comma there.