Posts Tagged ‘ comma ’

Teasing Trevor: When To Use A Comma With Dependent Clauses

Do you know which of these sentences needs another comma?

A. I liked the angle of Trevor’s jaw so I winked at him.
B. He surprised me when he sustained eye contact and circled his lips with his tongue.
C. I wanted to chew on those lips which seemed so juicy and pink.

Examples A & C each need a comma added but for different reasons.

Both clauses in Example A could stand on their own as complete sentences. They are independent clauses, and you need a conjunction (in this case, so) and a comma if you want to stick them together.

I liked the angle of Trevor’s jaw.

I winked at him.

I liked the angle of Trevor’s jaw, so I winked at him.

Example C also contains two clauses.

1. I wanted to chew on those lips.

2. Seemed so juicy and pink.

But the second clause doesn’t work as a complete sentence, does it? Example C combines a dependent clause and an independent clause, and they need a comma between them.

I wanted to chew on those lips, which seemed so juicy and pink.

Example B also combines an independent clause and a dependent clause, but these two clauses don’t need a comma between them.

independent clause: He surprised me

dependent clause: when he sustained eye contact and circled his lips with his tongue.

complete sentence: He surprised me when he sustained eye contact and circled his lips with his tongue.

What’s the difference between Example B’s dependent clause and Example C’s dependent clause? Why does one need a comma and not the other?

B. He surprised me when he sustained eye contact and circled his lips with his tongue.
C. I wanted to chew on those lips, which seemed so juicy and pink.

In Example B, the dependent clause changes the meaning of the sentence. Trevor didn’t just surprise the narrator in general. Trevor surprised the narrator by sustaining eye contact and circling his lips with his tongue. This dependent clause is restrictive. It restricts the meaning of the sentence. With restrictive dependent clauses, you don’t need a comma.

By contrast, the dependent clause in Example C simply adds description. It’s nonrestrictive. Take it away, and the meaning of the sentence remains the same. The narrator wants to chew Trevor’s lips. And by the way–not that it changes things at all–those lips seem juicy and pink. With restrictive dependent clauses, you need a comma.

Here are a few more examples:

nonrestrictive dependent clause—needs commas: His eyes, when they sustained contact with mine, surprised me.

restrictive dependent clause—no comma needed: I wanted to chew on the parts of him that seemed juicy and pink.

nonrestrictive dependent clause—needs a comma: I touched Trevor’s knee, which got his attention.

restrictive dependent clause—no comma needed: Trevor’s knee wasn’t the part of him that I really wanted to touch.

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Punctuating Side Comments: Comma, Em Dash, and Parentheses

You probably know you should set off parenthetical expressions with a comma, as in this example:

The dominatrix, a silver fox in a leather dress, kicked me and told me to beg for more.

But what about parentheses? It’s called a parenthetical expression after all! Can we set off the same parenthetical expression within parentheses? And what about dashes? What’s the difference?

Sure, you could go ahead and use parentheses or dashes in the example above. It would look like this:

The dominatrix–a silver fox in a leather dress–kicked me and told me to beg for more.

The dominatrix (a silver fox in a leather dress) kicked me and told me to beg for more.

But it wouldn’t be quite right. Commas, parentheses, and em dashes each have their particular meanings.

Use comma to set off a parenthetical expression that requires only a slight break, That is, the parenthetical expression flows well as part of the greater sentence, as in our original example.

The dominatrix, a silver fox in a leather dress, kicked me and told me to beg for more.

Use em dash to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break because it amplifies or explains something or because it is sudden:

The dominatrix–indicating her dominance with a whip and spiked heels–kicked me and told me to beg for more.

Use parentheses to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break and is not  as closely related to the rest of the sentence:

The dominatrix (we’d seen her here before dressed as a slave) kicked me and told me to beg for more.

You can use all of these punctuation marks to set apart parenthetical expressions in your writing. Ask yourself, does this expression flow with the rest of the sentence? (Use comma.) Does it add sudden amplification? (Use em dash.) Or is it not very closely related to the rest of the sentence? (Use parentheses.)

The Sexy Grammarian offers Free Sexy Grammar Lessons as well as Private Sessions, Custom Edits, and Intimate Workshops for all kinds of writers. Get a Free Private Session today and watch your writing project explode!

The Business of Side Talk: Comma, Em Dash, and Parentheses

You probably know you should set off parenthetical expressions with a comma, as in this example:

The order, 150 silicone dildos and 75 butt plugs, should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

But what about parentheses? It’s called a parenthetical expression after all! Can we set off the same parenthetical expression within parentheses? And what about dashes? What’s the difference?

Sure, you could go ahead and use parentheses or em dash in the example above. It would look like this:

The order–150 silicone dildos and 75 butt plugs–should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

The order (150 silicone dildos and 75 butt plugs) should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

But it wouldn’t be quite right. Commas, parentheses, and em-dashes each have their particular meanings.

Use comma to set off a parenthetical expression that requires only a slight break. That is, the parenthetical expression flows well as part of the greater sentence, as in our original example.

The order, 150 silicone dildos and 75 butt plugs, should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

Use em dash to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break because it amplifies or explains something or because it is sudden:

The order–unless you want it to be our last order–should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

Use parentheses to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break and is not as closely related to the rest of the sentence:

The order (attached) should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

You can use all of these punctuation marks to set apart parenthetical expressions in your writing. Ask yourself, does this expression flow with the rest of the sentence? (Use comma.) Does it add sudden amplification? (Use em dash.) Or is it not very closely related to the rest of the sentence? (Use parentheses.)

The Sexy Grammarian offers Free Sexy Grammar Lessons as well as Private Sessions, Custom Edits, and Intimate Workshops for all kinds of writers. Get a Free Private Session today and watch your writing project explode!

Air Quotes: Dear Sexy G

Dear Sexy Grammarian,

I would like to know about quote marks.  Do you have a post about that already?  In particular, I use quotes like air-quotes, you know, to acknowledge that a word is being used out of context or in a circumspect way (like either I intentionally used it incorrectly or I don’t believe the word I’m using so I’m adding some sort of sarcasm).  I guess that’s it!  I use those air-quotes to indicate sarcasm in my writing, just like I would when I speak.

Anyway, punctuation on those is also difficult, especially if they end a sentence or a clause.  The sarcasm really doesn’t extend to the punctuation for me, so I treat those air-quotes differently than I treat actual quotation marks, meaning that I usually put the punctuation on the outside of them (instead of inside, where they belong).  My question: do air quotes deserve the same authority as proper quotation marks?

Sincerely,

Norman

To my beloved Norman,

When we use air quotes in speech or ironic quotation marks in writing we convey sarcasm or irony, just as you explain so well. But as punctuation marks, these ironic quotes carry no less weight than any other use of a quotation mark. So use the same rules of punctuation, whether your quotation marks convey dialogue or irony.

That is, put the comma or period inside quotation marks, though, as E.B. White lovingly wrote on the subject, “logically it often seems not to belong there.”

What she called “erotica” I called porn.

Let’s not have sex. Let’s just be “friends.”

When I told her to “bring the sexy,” I didn’t mean the whole dildo collection.

And yes, at Sexy Grammar, we’ve got several free lessons on punctuation and dialogue and quotation marks. Check out these naughty posts on dialogue tags, direct objects, and predicate nominatives.

Yours,

The Sexy G

Frequently, a client or online fan shares a burning grammar question, and I always post answers here on the blog.  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to write to me. Looking for more attention? Get affordable, project-focused private sessions in person or via Skype or email.

Academic Asides: Parentheses, Dashes, or Commas?

You probably know you should set off parenthetical expressions with a comma, as in this example:

The participants, 300 women who ejaculate with orgasm, agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

But what about parentheses? It’s called a parenthetical expression after all! Can we set off the same parenthetical expression within parentheses? And what about dashes? What’s the difference?

Sure, you could go ahead and use parentheses or dashes in the example above. It would look like this:

The participants (300 women who ejaculate with orgasm) agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

The participants–300 women who ejaculate with orgasm–agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

But it wouldn’t be quite right. Commas, parentheses, and em dashes each have their particular meanings.

Use comma to set off a parenthetical expression that requires only a slight break. That is, the parenthetical expression flows well as part of the greater sentence, as in our original example.

The participants, 300 women who ejaculate with orgasm, agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

Use em dash to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break because it amplifies or explains something or because it is sudden:

The participants–we call them participants rather than subjects–agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

Use parentheses to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break and is not  as closely related to the rest of the sentence:

The participants (further described below) agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

You can use all of these punctuation marks to set apart parenthetical expressions in your writing. Ask yourself, does this expression flow with the rest of the sentence? (Use comma.) Does it add sudden amplification? (Use em dash.) Or is it not very closely related to the rest of the sentence? (Use parentheses.)

The Sexy Grammarian offers Free Sexy Grammar Lessons as well as Private Lessons, Custom Edits, and Intimate Workshops for all kinds of writers. Get a Free Private Lesson today and watch your writing project explode!

Eroica’s Erotica, Episode 8: Lists

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead. Continue reading

Eroica’s Erotica, Episode 7: Comma Splice

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.

Here’s an example of how to use your solid understanding of compound and complex sentence structures to fix another problematic sentence, the comma splice:

Eroica and I read the sex scenes to each other for hours, the teasing was excruciating. Continue reading