Scribblings of a grammatically challenged soul - Part 2

  • I often get confused when it comes to placing the comma, using a semi colon etc. Hopefully life would be a little better after this article. Punctuations are grammatical tools that allow you to keep your intended meaning clear. When used correctly, they help in understanding the message  properly  and aid  easy reading with necessary pauses and stops. The improper usage of punctuations, either an overdose or under utilisation, introduces  the risk of confusing and misinforming the reader. When the punctuation is missing, even the most well-intentioned of statements can turn into a minefield of unintended meaning.


    Example 1

    Let’s eat, Grandma.

    Let’s eat Grandma.

    Example 2

    I love cooking, my dogs, and my family.

    I love cooking my dogs and my family.

    Comma is important! Seems like it will take a lifetime for me to understand all the contexts of using a comma. So, I decided to focus on some common errors and simple rules that will help me look less stupid while using a comma. Commas are often used to separate small meaningful statements. Comma provides clarity in a sentence like a pause while we actually say the sentence. If you cannot justify a pause at that part of the sentence, a comma may not be required. Say the above example sentences aloud and you can see how a pause and a comma is related.

    Check whether we need a comma in the examples below.

    The book on the table, is mine.

    We don’t need a comma here. Because the clause after comma (is mine) doesn’t make sense on its own and needs the clause before comma for completion. We don’t have to put a comma in between them. Let them be together and live happily ever after. So correct version would be - The book on the table is mine.

    College students, who are absent, ought to be questioned.

    Do we need a comma here? No! Why? Because if you remove the clause within coma (who are absent) the remaining sentence – College students ought to be questioned - is incomplete/incorrect. The sentence needs the clause –who are absent - to be meaningful. So let’s not put poor college kids into trouble and remove the comma. Correct version – College students who are absent ought to be questioned.

    What about College students, who are young, enjoy their lives.

    If we remove the clause within the comma (who are young) the remaining clause is still meaningful. As –who are young – clause doesn’t add anything to the meaning of the sentence, comma is required.

    If the identification comes after the name, it should always be surrounded by commas.

    The boy answered quickly, what his mentor asked.

    Here also comma is not required as the ‘his’ in the clause after comma cannot be meaningful without the first clause. Correct version – The boy answered quickly what his mentor asked

    If the dependent clause comes in the beginning of the sentence, comma is required.

    Whatever his mentor asked, the boy answered quickly. (Correct)

    Rakesh wanted to be either a teacher, or an engineer.

    Pairs like either-or, not only – but also etc. cannot be separated by comma. So correct version – Rakesh wanted to be either a teacher or an engineer.

    John’s eldest son Robert is a doctor.

    When the identifier makes sense in the sentence by itself, then the name is non-essential and you use a comma before it. Otherwise, no comma. Correct version – John’s eldest son, Robert is a doctor. (As eldest son make sense by itself). If John has more than one son then John’s son Robert is a doctor is correct

    Dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

    Three or more items in a series should be separated by commas, including the final item, which comes after the conjunction (almost always AND or OR). This final comma is known as a serial comma (also called Oxford comma and Harvard comma)

    Dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God. (Wrong – Author’s parents can’t be Ayn Rand and God!)

    Dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand, and God (Correct)

    As a parting shot, check whether the below question uses comma properly and then solve it! (share your answers (both verbal and quant) as comment :D

    Two tanks, T1 and T2, of equal capacities, are provided with inlet taps, A and B, of different flow rates, respectively. Tap A begins to fill the first tank.  Seven minutes later, tap B is opened. Nine minutes after that, the total quantity of water in the two tanks is just enough to fill one tank completely. Exactly t minutes after that both the tanks are full. What is the value of t? ( Answer is 12 )

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