QUESTION 1.Is it necessary to place a comma after the word "agreed" in the following sentence:The commission agreed and the case was closed.2. Is it necessary to place a comma after the word "complaint" in the following sentence:The litigant replied with a letter objecting to the decision to dismiss his complaint insisting that he had provided the motions to the judge. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Phoenix, Arizona Thu, Mar 16, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In the first sentence, you could get away without using the comma because the independent clauses making up the sentence are brief and nicely balanced. I'd still use one, if only to slow down the sentence. In the second sentence, we really do need a comma after "compaint." Without the comma, the final participial phrase (beginning with "insisting") appears to modify "complaint" (which it doesn't want to do; it's a mirroring of the first participial phrase ["objecting to . . . .]).
QUESTION Is there a rule for the use of the word "nor," or is this word so obsolete that it should not be used at all? I am a medical transcriptionist and find that quite a few doctors are using "nor" in a way that seems to me to be inappropriate.
Thank you for any clarification you might be able to provide.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Elysburg, Pennsylvania Fri, Mar 17, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't know what kind of usage you find inappropriate, but the word "nor" has certainly not gone entirely extinct. It's used rather seldom, though, compared to some of the other conjunctions, such as and, but, and or, so it might feel a bit odd when it does come up in conversation or writing. Its most common use is as part of the correlative pair, neither-nor: "He is neither sane nor brilliant." "That is neither what I said nor what I meant." It can be used with other negative expressions: "That is not what I meant to say, nor should you interpret it as a binding contract." It is possible to use nor without a preceding negative element, but it's unusual and, to an extent, rather stuffy: "George's handshake is as good as any written contract, nor has he ever proven untrustworthy."
QUESTION Should there be space around math symbols/equations? For example, which is correct:
- 2+1=3 or
- 2 + 1 = 3
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Baltimore, Maryland Fri, Mar 17, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The short answer is yes, use spaces around those numbers. However, if you're going to be doing a lot of the representation of numbers and mathematical expressions in your text, you should get hold of a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style and consult chapter 13. As you will see, there is much to be considered here. There are also special software programs, such as MathType, to help math instructors and writers get it right. (Make sure you buy the version that goes with your own word processing software.)
QUESTION Why doesn't the word "broast" appear in any dictionaries? I have looked in about ten dictionaries and have found no entry for the word. Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE West Bend, Wisconsin Sun, Mar 19, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I remember hearing this word before. It has something to do with the combination of roasting and broiling, as I recall. Whatever it means, it apparently hasn't made it into the common dictionaries, yet. I have an unabridged, but it's absolutely ancient and wouldn't be in there. It isn't in the online Merriam-Webster's either. I understand there's a new Oxford English Dictionary just out, and I'd be happy to check there if you buy it for me.
QUESTION The Spotliters is a choral and acting group, formally known as The Spotliters Theatrical and Choral Association. If printing a sign for advertising, wouldn't the proper verb be as follows: The Spotliters presents Fiddler on the Roof. Some argue that the verb should be present instead of presents. Best thing I could find was a statement in Harbrace that nouns which are plural in form but singular in meaning, take a singular verb........(presents). Is this correct? Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Sun, Mar 19, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Harbrace is right, of course, but that doesn't help you decide whether Spotliters is singular or plural in meaning. As an analogy, wouldn't you say that the Yankees present problems for American league pitching? Although Spotliters is a singular entity and we might say something like "The Spotliters is my favorite group," we're more apt to think of them in this context as individuals making up the group; I'd go with the plural verb. This is what you get for changing the name of the group.
QUESTION When you are talking about two things, but the first thing is broken into a series, would you need a comma to separate the two things. I know that doesn't make sense, but for example: You wouldn't need a comma between"Use of suitable equipment and a suitable working environment."However, would you need a comma after "equipment" if you were to say"Use of suitable production, installation, and servicing equipment and a suitable working environment?"I tend to lean towards no, but I'm unsure. Help!!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Fairfax, Virginia Mon, Mar 20, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Whether you use a comma or not, that sentence is going to be very hard to read and your reader is going to wonder what belongs with what. It's the repetition of "and" that messes things up. But what if you put the last thing first and write something like "the combination of an appopriate work environment and the use of suitable production, installation, and servicing equipment."? (I'm not sure what a "working environment" means.)
QUESTION I see writers introducing sentences with a yet, but, and, etc, which is followed by a comma and then an independent clause. For example:
I would like to write it as:
- Bob was hurt. Yet, he seemed to keep on moving.
- Bob was hurt. But, he seemed to keep on moving.
- Bob was hurt. And, he seemed to keep on moving.Bob was hurt, yet he seemed to keep on moving.I know the latter form is correct, but where is the first form of using "yet" correct? As mentioned, I see many writers using the form, and it is comfortable to read; however, is it gramatically correct?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Savannah, Georgia Tue, Mar 21, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think you've analyzed the situation correctly: that punctuation is a fairly good replication of the way we speak. When talking, we often begin sentences with a conjunction followed by a rather heavy pause, and then we continue with our first clause. If your text is meant to reproduce the way people speak (as in a short story, say), that punctuation would be appropriate. But it is not regarded as appropriate in formal or academic text ever to follow that initial conjunction with a comma. Some people would argue that you should never begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction in the first place, but many very good writers have been ignoring that little rule for a long, long time. Your version of the construction "Bob was hurt, yet he seemed to kee on moving." is definitely an improvement over "hurt. Yet, he seemed. . . ".
QUESTION I teach 6th grade. Our language book teaches that an article is an adjective, as you do. But at the middle school most of our kids go to, the teacher says an article isn't an adjective. No dictionary I can find equates them with adjectives. Any idea about an authoritative place to cite to prove our point?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE St. Louis, Missouri Tue, Mar 21, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You could look up the definition in the Little, Brown Handbook, which says that "Articles are usually classed as adjectives" (p. 768). Having said that, however, I should add that there are useful distinctions between almost all adjectives and the determiners (a class that includes the articles and words like that, this, some, etc.) Among other differences, determiners cannot take endings (as adjectives do when they become comparative, say) or have any other endings (like -able or -ly). And determiners will also precede any adjective or noun modifier of a noun. Textbooks that categorize words more carefully will distinguish between so-called "form classes" or "content words" (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) and "structure classes" or "function words" (determiners, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns). Notice, for one thing, how the body of nouns and verbs keeps growing, daily, but the articles, prepositions, and conjunctions we use now are pretty much the same as they were four hundred years ago.
Authority: The Little, Brown Handbook by H. Ramsay Fowler and Jane E. Aaron, & Kay Limburg. 6th ed. HarperCollins: New York. 1995. By permission of Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc.
Authority: Analyzing English Grammar by Thomas Klammer & Muriel Schulz. 3rd Edition. Allyn & Bacon: Needham, Massachusetts. 2000.
QUESTION When using a possessive pronoun, should the antecedent be functioning as a noun in the sentence? Or can the antecedent be a noun in the possessive case, in which case it would be functioning as an adjective in the sentence?Example: My uncle came to visit today. I found my father's keys and his briefcase in the hallway.(Does "his" refer to the last male noun, "uncle," or to the possessive noun functioning as an adjective, "father's"?
Thank you so very much!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Marcos, Texas Tue, Mar 21, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That "his" is going to associate with the closest preceding male noun or pronoun ("father's," in this case), regardless of form. There's no way you can make it refer back to "uncle," not unless you're standing there pointing at your uncle when you say it. I doubt if there's any question of ambiguity here, either, if that's what you're worried about. The briefcase definitely belongs to your father. (Of course the second sentence doesn't seem to have much to do with the first, but that's beside the point here.)
QUESTION Where is "then" properly used? Does it ever substitute for a comma or follow a comma? The only proper use I know for "then" is"He went to the movies and then he went home."I do not know about:"He went to the movies, then he went home" or "He went to the movies; then, he went home."Which of the above is correct and which is a no-no?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Savannah, Georgia Tue, Mar 21, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't see anything wrong with the sentence that uses the semicolon, although "and then" (preceded by a comma or not) would probably serve just as well if not better. "He went to the movies, then he went home." might appear in casual writing, but in academic prose, it's not a good idea to allow "then" to function as a coordinating conjunction by itself in that way. It needs the help of "and."
Authority: A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. Longman Group: Essex, England. 1993. p. 288. Used with permission.
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