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comma after dash: To some degree – and XXXX –, XXX.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by esperanza2, Feb 13, 2007.

  1. esperanza2 Senior Member

    France
    English
    "To some degree – and XXXX –, XXX"

    Is the punctuation used above correct? It's a little weird to put a comma after a dash, but maybe i'm wrong.
     
  2. whatonearth Senior Member

    UK, English
    No, the comma and the dash both perform the same function (in slightly different ways), that is, to create a break or pause in the sentence. Therefore there is no need to have both a dash AND a comma in this instance
     
  3. favonius Junior Member

    Bulgarian
    But what if you really need a comma after the first sentence and you use the dashes just to insert something (such as an enumeration of examples)?

    "If you like world music - fado, flamenco, salsa, etc. -, you will really enjoy this festival."

    Perhaps brackets could be used to avoid the awkward look of the sentence, but could commas and dashes be used in such a way?
     
  4. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    That [dash, comma] is nonstandard, as What said. Your proposal would work, for parentheses.
     
  5. Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    The comma serves no purpose. You are using dashes to set off a clarifying clause in exactly the same way as you would use brackets. Remove it and you will see that the comma is redundant:
    "If you like world music you will really enjoy this festival."
     
  6. Edinburgher Senior Member

    Scotland
    German/English bilingual
    That's true, but although favonius's example was incorrect (it was not a situation which really needed a comma), the question is valid nonetheless.
    Imagine a sentence which does require a comma, into which the author wants to insert a clarifying clause immediately before the comma. Then what? Well, in that case I'd say the closing dash should simply be omitted - just like at the end of this sentence. Unlike brackets and parentheses, dashes do not need to come in pairs.
     
  7. Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    But that is a different sentence structure where the dash is not being used to set off additional information within a sentence. If the clause is within a sentence - like this one - both dashes are necessary. That sentence could be written If the clause is within a sentence, both dashes are necessary - with or without the comma. The comma is not necessary. If the parenthetic remark is added, the sentence is broken up by its insertion, and the comma is wholly redundant. It is the comma which should be omitted, not the dash.
     
  8. Edinburgher Senior Member

    Scotland
    German/English bilingual
    If in your sentence "If the clause is within a sentence, both dashes are necessary." the comma is optional, as you indicate, then it is a poor example of what effect the insertion of a clause should have on that comma.
    If such an extra-information clause appears within of a sentence at a position where no comma (or semicolon or whatever) need otherwise appear, then of course you need a dash at each end of the clause, but such a clause can also appear at the end, in which case the full stop swallows the closing dash. Similarly, one might want to insert a clause before an existing mandatory comma or semicolon, and surely then the better course of action would be to let the dash be swallowed in the same way, rather than let it do the swallowing.

    I can't see how in the following enumeration:
    On our afternoon walk we went past the watermill, the stables - about which I must tell you a funny story, the duck pond, and the tractor shed.
    you could possibly replace the comma after 'story' by a dash. Still, this is probably a good example of where the use of a dash is a bad idea, and parentheses would be better:
    On our afternoon walk we went past the watermill, the stables (about which I must tell you a funny story), the duck pond, and the tractor shed.
     
  9. Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Your first sentence, without a dash, is unintelligible. It demonstrates, clearly, that the comma can be omitted in this situation. I agree that using parentheses avoids any possible confusion.
     
  10. favonius Junior Member

    Bulgarian
    Thank you for all the replies, they're very insightful.

    I always thought that after an introductory conditional clause ("If ...") there is an obligatory comma before the main clause beings. At least this is how we were taught at school. So are you saying that the comma is optional? Even in terms of intonation there is a necessary pause at the end of the conditional clause, so it makes sense to reflect that by using a comma. But then again, punctuation rules in the English language are really random and it seems they change a lot too (or a lot, too?).
     

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