Don’t separate a subject from its verb

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Don’t separate a subject from its verb

Oh, gosh. I’ve been playing Keeper of the Child this morning, which is fun, but not very conducive to writing blog posts. Now he sleeps, and I hope for at least 2 hours of grown-up time.

In other news, Kevin has written a good post on comma use, to which I’ll add another common comma complaint: separating the subject from its verb.

See this simple sentence:

The dog bit the cat.

It’s built of these basic bits:

The dog

[subject] bit [verb] the cat [object].

You would never dream of putting a comma after the subject and before the verb:

The dog, bit the cat. [No. You wouldn’t do this, would you?]

But when the subject is a longer noun phrase, many people (I catch myself sometimes) will want to add a comma after the subject, just it feels like there should be a pause…

No.

For example:

The cat that had studied Ninjutsu everyday for for the last 10 years snapped the dog in half with a casual flick of his claws.

The bold bit above is still just the subject; it’s just a more complex noun phrase. So, just like with the simple sentence, we would never put a comma between the subject and its verb. (Well, we might. But when we reread the sentence before publishing, we’d take it out again!)

Kevin also writes about asyndeton, which besides being a great rhetorical device, is fun to say. The word feels like it’s forged out of some kind of organic metal from the future.

Asyndeton has a chapter dedicated to it in Mark Forsyth‘s superb book: The Elements of Eloquence. If you are a writing geek, you need this book. In the words of Bernard Black, ‘You’ll laugh; you’ll cry. It’ll change your life.’ (Which is very nearly itself an example of asyndeton.) Buy it now.

By | 2017-05-19T08:20:53+00:00 March 20th, 2015|Did you know, Grammar, Punctuation|0 Comments

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