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Hi,

I am going to ask about three sentences. I will give you two options to choose from in each instance.

Where I have difficulty is when I have a subordinate clause buried in the middle of the sentence. I will try to elaborate where I have difficulty in each of the three sentences.

*** #***

(original version--my preference)

Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the US, and if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents.

(modified--correct?)

Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the US, and, if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents.

Note the additional comma after "and". But if I were to say this sentence out loud, I wouldn't pause after the "and." So, to me, this additional comma doesn't belong. Yet, I want to be correct. Also, the "if you believe the documentation" seems to me to be a restrictive clause, so I don't want to set it off.

*** #***

(original version below)

Analyzing the data reveals public support of conflict, for as environmental issues become a variable, attitudes towards war become more complex.

(modified version)

Analyzing the data reveals public support of conflict, for, as environmental issues become a variable, attitudes towards war become more complex.

Very similar to the Sentence #1.

Where I have specific difficulty is the comma punctuation after the coordinating conjunction leading into the subordinate clause. To my thinking, if the subordinate clause is not long or if you would not pause in your speach at that specific point, then no comma is required.

*** #***

(original version below)

As long as the building can be used for other purposes, the risk to the city is mitigated because should the company fold, the city can sell or lease the building to another third party.

(modified version)

As long as the building can be used for other purposes, the risk to the city is mitigated because, should the company fold, the city can sell or lease the building to another third party.

This sentence follows the same sort of theme. The introductory clause is set off with a comma. The "because clause" is restrictive, so it ought NOT be set off with a comma. To my thinking, the "should the company fold" clause is also restrictive so it too should not be set off with a comma, but the following "the city can selll or lease the building to another third party" should be set off.

I am most appreciative of your throughts as to how I should think about these sentences. Complex sentences like the ones above always cause me a bit of grief.

Thank you.
MountainHiker
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Miriam,

I can't find the chatroom here. So I trust you are correct in that it exists, but you will have to tell me where the link is. Maybe in addition, you could provide the link as well.

<> Okay, I am easy either way.

<>

Well, I think it is hard. But maybe it is just me. Emotion: smile

Hasta luego,
MountainHiker
Yes, the chatroom exists, I didn't make that up! ~L~
If you have a careful at the home page of the forums, you will find the link that will take you to the room.
The link is on the left side of the page. It is the last of four links you will see right under the word "help" written in large, bold type.
Hope you can find it.

Miriam
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I am there now and I believe you are at the web site somewhere. I hope to see you there!
Hi,

My question about the complex sentences and comma placement will likely remain a mystery a bit longer.

I had posed this question a while back in a newsgroup using the pseudonym "Harry Sampson."

You can see my post and the responses I got [url="http://tinyurl.com/27uog "]here in the newsgroup[/url]

As you can see, various other people struggled with it as well. The best response I got was from CyberCypher.

Now you might be wondering, if I already got an answer, then why did I ask my question again? The reason is that I still struggle with where to put the commas in these compound, complex sentences. Professional editors are able to easily correct your writing, but they sometimes have difficulty explaining WHY something should be the way it is. And people who teach something often have a more detailed grasp of the mechanics. So I thought I would post my message here and see what developed.

It was interesting to compare the answers in the newsgroup with those in this forum.

In rereading the newsgroup, I think CyberCypher had the best response.

<>

So with that, I think we can close the book, as it were, on this topic.

Thank you for your assistance.
I suspect that Miriam is correct in her remarks about comma usage. Here are some illustrative sentences from an article in the latest issue of The Economist:

Not many weeks ago, a group of people who like to think they are in the know had convinced themselves that, by the end of the year, Tony Blair would no longer be Britain's prime minister.

Now, however, most sensible observers believe that nothing, other than an unlikely rejection by voters, will prevent Mr. Blair from soldiering on for at least another three years, until he reaches his tenth anniversary as prime minister.

[Mr. Seldon's] judgement that Mr. Blair, while not a bad prime minister, cannot claim a place in a first rank that includes Asquith, Attlee, Churchill and Thatcher, is both hard to disagree with and unlikely to alter.

But whereas Mr. Seldon appears to see this as an almost tragic denouement, an example of limitless promise, if not betrayed, at least unfulfilled, this is both too harsh and too grand.
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Hi taiwandave,

I suspect that Miriam is correct in her remarks about comma usage.

Original sentence 2:

Analyzing the data reveals public support of conflict, for as environmental issues become a variable, attitudes towards war become more complex.

Miriam's comment:

As with the first example, the comma before 'for' could be omitted, yet I think the sentence looks better with a comma.

I believe the comma prior to the "for" is required as, I believe, "for" is functioning as a coordinating conjunction. Thus, a comma must precede the "for".

But that's just one person's belief.

Actually, there is an excellent discussion of "for" located [url="http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar/conjunctions.htm"]here at Webster.[/url]

You need to search about 1/3 to 1/2 down the page. You will find the following comment:

The word FOR is most often used as a preposition, of course, but it does serve, on rare occasions, as a coordinating conjunction. Some people regard the conjunction for as rather highfalutin and literary, and it does tend to add a bit of weightiness to the text. Beginning a sentence with the conjunction "for" is probably not a good idea, except when you're singing "For he's a jolly good fellow. "For" has serious sequential implications and in its use the order of thoughts is more important than it is, say, with because or since. Its function is to introduce the reason for the preceding clause:

* John thought he had a good chance to get the job, for his father was on the company's board of trustees.
* Most of the visitors were happy just sitting around in the shade, for it had been a long, dusty journey on the train.


The key point is "for" introduces the reason for the preceding clause. In the examples they provide, there is a comma prior to "for".

I think this stuff is difficult, but then again maybe it's just me.

The sentences from the Economist are very good;however, none of the sentences from the Economist appear to be compound sentences, which is where I run into difficulty.

The pattern that causes me grief is...

independent clause + coorindinating conjunction + immediately following by another conjunction and more text.

blah blah blah, and while blah blah blah...comma req'd preceding "while"?

blah blah blah, for as blah blah blah...comma req'd preceding "as"

I really like your last Economist example:

But whereas Mr. Seldon appears to see this as an almost tragic denouement, an example of limitless promise, if not betrayed, at least unfulfilled, this is both too harsh and too grand.

Some people might be tempted to put in more commas, such as after the "but" and after "whereas". But they way the Economist punctuated the sentence is the way I would say it. The commas are where I would pause in my speech.

In trying to figure this stuff out, I use my "ear" to guide me where I think there ought to be a comma. That's why I am not inclined to put commas after the coordinating conjunction. I don't usually pause there when I speak.

Anyway, I think looking at good quality writing is probably my best method for sorting this issue out on my own. I will need to find some authors that I like and emulate they way they write their compound, complex sentences.
The following is from the Economist Style Guide (Copyright © The Economist Newspaper Limited 2004).

Commas

Use commas as an aid to understanding. Too many in one sentence can be confusing.

It is not always necessary to put a comma after a short phrase at the start of a sentence if no natural pause exists there: On August 2nd he invaded. Next time the world will be prepared. But a breath, and so a comma, is needed after longer passages: When it was plain that he had his eyes on Saudi Arabia as well as Kuwait, America responded.

Use two commas, or none at all, when inserting a clause in the middle of a sentence. Thus, do not write: Use two commas, or none at all when inserting . . . or Use two commas or none at all, when inserting . . .

If the clause ends with a bracket, which is not uncommon (this one does), the bracket should be followed by a comma.

Commas can alter the sense of a sentence. To write Mozart's 40th symphony, in G minor, with commas indicates that this symphony was written in G minor. Without commas, Mozart's 40th symphony in G minor suggests he wrote 39 other symphonies in G minor.

Do not put a comma before and at the end of a sequence of items unless one of the items includes another and. Thus The doctor suggested an aspirin, half a grapefruit and a cup of broth. But he ordered scrambled eggs, whisky and soda, and a selection from the trolley.
taiwandave,

That is an excellent summation. It is, of course, just one paper's viewpoint on how they do it. But the Economist is a very well regarded publication.

The rule that appears to apply to my situation is....

Use two commas, or none at all, when inserting a clause in the middle of a sentence. Thus, do not write: Use two commas, or none at all when inserting . . . or Use two commas or none at all, when inserting . . .

As a complete aside...taiwandave, if you are going to "nest" font attributes like I have done above, you need to have the correct order. ... .... . By order, I mean close the first attribute used, last. First attribute was italic, so the italic is the last one closed. And so on. I gave taiwandave a quick tip sheet earlier and forgot to include nesting.

Getting back on track, using the above rule in my examples, we would always select the "modified" version. Maybe it is as simple as that?

It is definitely something to watch for.

One thing I note about The Economist is that I always punctuate "i.e.," and "e.g.," but I think The Economist simply goes "ie" and "eg" and is done with it.

Your answer is very helpful taiwandave. I will keep looking at other sources too.

Thank you!
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Thanks for the nesting tip.
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