2nd One-day Comma Contest

The following sentence needs commas. Figure out where the commas go, and put the corrected version in the comments below.

Everyone who gets this right will receive a free copy of Zen Comma and 300 Days of Better Writing (so make sure your e-mail address is valid and correct). The contest closes at 8:00 p.m. (EDT) today (8/26/2011). I’ll reveal the answer and the winners at that time. (Ahem…my decisions will be final.)

Don’t take this too seriously. Have fun.

No there is no pleasing some people Marcus thought as he gazed at the adobe huts mostly made of mud-covered straw half-buried in the hill only their doors clearly visible.

(Don’t see the comment box? Click on the contest title to make sure you’re on the post’s actual page, not the home page.)

(er…typo fixed. Thanks, Oliver!)

Contest Closed

Thanks to each of you who participated. In case you haven’t yet read the comments below…the winners are Sandy and Aoryst.

Congratulations! In the morning, I’ll send them Zen Comma and 300 Days of Better Writing (PDF). Suggestion: If you plan to print them, print them at work. Just saying.

Oliver receives a nod, as well, for pointing out a typo in the post. (Don’t look for it–I fixed it.) I’m sending him the PDF of 300 Days of Better Writing. I’ve often said that editors need to be confident and more than a little gutsy. At the same time, we need humility. (Oliver: Let me know if you already have this book, and we’ll do something else, maybe Writing Tips for a Year.)

If you didn’t get a prize this time, or if you didn’t participate, stay tuned. I’ll do it again in about a month.

Advertisements
  1. #1 by Sandy on August 26, 2011 - 9:55 am

    OK, I’ll give it a shot.

    No, there is no pleasing some people, Marcus thought as he gazed at the adobe huts, mostly made of mud-covered straw, half-buried in the hill, only their doors clearly visble.

    This feels right to me!

    • #2 by preciseedit on August 26, 2011 - 6:56 pm

      Perfect! You have good aim. I’ll send the books in the morning!

      • #3 by Sandy on August 27, 2011 - 4:15 pm

        Thanks! That was fun! Yes, I said commas are “fun.” I look forward to improving my comma usage by reading the words of a comma master.

  2. #4 by Oliver Lawrence on August 26, 2011 - 10:23 am

    No, there is no pleasing some people, Marcus thought, as he gazed at the adobe huts mostly made of mud-covered straw, half-buried in the hill, only their doors clearly visble [sic].

    • #5 by preciseedit on August 26, 2011 - 6:57 pm

      One extra comma (can you believe I’m saying that?). But, to say thanks for pointing out the typo, I’m sending you a prize, too!

      Why no comma before “as.” Isn’t “as” a coordinating conjunction joining two independent clauses, thus requiring a comma? In my opinion, that doesn’t apply here. “As” in this case has the sense of “while,” which is different than writing, for example, “I have a dog, as I am sure you are aware.”

      • #6 by Oliver Lawrence on August 27, 2011 - 10:34 am

        Interesting :); thanks, David. I agree with you that ‘as’ is adverbial here, but my feeling is still that the comma there is natural. I would probably pause slightly there when reading it aloud, because the information about what Marcus was looking at is a new idea, separate from what he was thinking about (from the context there is no direct connection between the two, hence the idea of simultaneity suggested by omitting the comma there might feel misplaced).
        I see that the rule about coordinating conjunctions joining independent clauses doesn’t apply, but is there a rule that says a comma there is actually wrong?

      • #7 by Oliver Lawrence on August 27, 2011 - 11:06 am

        Perhaps I could argue that “as he gazed…” represents a shift in focus (from what he thought to what he was looking at, which from the context appears unrelated), thus requiring a comma.

      • #8 by preciseedit on August 28, 2011 - 9:24 am

        Oliver: Your argument is valid. Still, no “rule” requires that comma. Could a writer put one there for the reasons you mention, to emphasize Marcus’s thinking pattern? Sure. Many commas are placed just for that reason. It’s an aesthetic-stylistic rationale, with the comma not required based on comma usage guidelines but used to create a particular impression on the reader. This may be an example of first knowing the rules of writing mechanics before breaking them to create an effect.

  3. #9 by Richard L. Babik on August 26, 2011 - 11:14 am

    No, there is no pleasing some people, Marcus thought, as he gazed at the adobe huts mostly made of mud-covered straw, half-buried in the hill, only their doors clearly visble.

    • #10 by preciseedit on August 26, 2011 - 9:35 pm

      See the comments below about the comma before “as” and after “adobe huts.”

  4. #11 by emperornero on August 26, 2011 - 3:42 pm

    No, there is no pleasing some people, Marcus thought as he gazed at the adobe huts mostly made of mud-covered straw, half-buried in the hill, only their doors clearly visible.

    • #12 by preciseedit on August 26, 2011 - 9:34 pm

      Here’s the trap in this sentence: “mostly made of mud-covered straw” is a non-restrictive phrase with an implied “which were.” As a non-restrictive phrase, it needs to be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

      “…adobe huts, (which were) mostly made of mud-covered straw, half-buried in the hill….”

  5. #13 by Aoryst (@aoryst) on August 26, 2011 - 4:09 pm

    Here is my proposition.

    No, there is no pleasing some people, Marcus thought as he gazed at the adobe huts, mostly made of mud-covered straw, half-buried in the hill, only their doors clearly visible.

    • #14 by preciseedit on August 26, 2011 - 6:57 pm

      Also perfect! Look for an e-mail from me in the morning-with 2 books attached!

      Oh…I’ll need a valid e-mail address for you. Please e-mail me your address so I can e-mail you the books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: