Tuesday, September 14, 2010

grammatical zeitgeist

From Facebook:  The Smaller Hooligan's Godmother posted:


Okay all you people who think you're so smart for knowing your vs. you're and their vs. they're: Click "Like" if you know what an appositive is and when it requires a comma.

Saturday at 1:06pm ·  · 

    • S Wow. The silence is deafening!
      Saturday at 8:41pm · 

    • The Man Who Lives In My House:   Google, the world's largest search engine, is an excellent site in which to find answers to esoterica.

      Sunday at 12:16pm ·  · 

    • The Godmother:   Correct comma usage is not esoterica! But Google is an excellent grammar resource. You don't even need to know terms like "appositive." If only people would do a search for "commas around names" or "that vs. which" whenever they were...
      Sunday at 3:02pm · 

    • ______________________________________
After reading this, punctuation was on my mind, so I wrote the Godmother this email:
Subject: Punctuation consultation

My brainy and creative amiga, whom I am appositively honored to count among my friends,

I am very fond  (one might say over-fond) of parenthesis. When a parenthetical aside is used in the middle of a sentence, but is complete (sentence-wise), does one employ a period within the parenthetical parameters? Or should it be left as a fragment?  I find this particularly troubling when I parenthetize at the end of the sentence (as I did in the final paragraph of my last post).  (and right here!) Should there have been a period just now, at the end of that last one?  and then another after the final curve-thingy?
ps I may have to blog some of this, but I will get your approval before anything hits the infernal net.
She wrote back right away.  She is prompt, or perhaps I should say punctual (English Major joke).

Just today I was writing a sentence like you describe. I left the parenthetical remark unpunctuated, although it was technically a complete sentence and occurred in the middle of another sentence. Punctuation is just annoying in the middle of a sentence (even when the parenthetical is a complete sentence), and annoyance should be avoided at all costs. The only exception I can think of would be if the parenthetical was a question (And who doesn't love questions?) because they require the question mark to indicate tone. Then I'd capitalize it and include a question mark.

When it's at the end of a sentence, it's much easier to deal with. You can simply punctuate the parenthetical like a complete sentence, like this:

I find this particularly troubling when I parenthetize at the end of the sentence. (I did this in the final paragraph of my last post, quite frankly.)

Of course the actual parenthetical you used:

(as I did in the final paragraph of my last post)
is not in fact a complete sentence and therefore would not require punctuation.

I hope this makes sense! Rules of punctation vary from style guide to style guide (AP Style is often different from Chicago Manual of Style) and are, frankly, a matter of taste. I go for maximum clarity whenever discrepancies arise.

Parenthetically yours,

(The Godmother)

This is a woman who knows about style, literary and otherwise. 

1 comment:

  1. Reading you in Paris is fun! Best wishes to turtle )-:
    PS I question godmother's use of "like" in her first sentence. Recommend "as".