comma after adverb preceded by 'and not': And not surprisingly, he is

film4reel

Senior Member
Spanish
And not surprisingly he is the most adequate student for undertaking such a difficult project.

And not surprisingly, he is the most adequate student for undertaking such a difficult project.

Which one is correct? And why?
 
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The modern style is to reduce the punctuation. The first is possible as it does not cause ambiguity or misunderstanding; but I would prefer the second. I like to separate an initial adverbial from the rest of the clause. Similarly:

    Admittedly, he was late.
    Unfortunately, he was late.
    Suddenly, he jumped up.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Because it is never incorrect to use the comma after an introductory phrase/clause, I prefer the comma even though "comma minimalists" might omit it. See HERE for more information about introductory elements and commas.
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    If we're going to use commas (and I have not problem with them), I'd prefer two:

    And, not surprisingly, he is the most adequate student for undertaking such a difficult project.

    By the way, I'm not mad keen on "most adequate", but that's another story...
     

    aparis2

    Senior Member
    American English
    I too would also use:
    And, not surprisingly, he is the most adequate student for undertaking such a difficult project.
    I say this because the "not surprisingly" part could be inserted into other parts of the sentence, i.e.:
    And he is the most adequate student for undertaking such a difficult project, not surprisingly.
    And he is the most adequate student, not surprisingly, for undertaking such a difficult project.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think it helps, when deciding about commas, to ask yourself where you would break or pause when speaking, to listen to things through your mind's ear. I, for instance, wouldn't pause after and, but I would pause after surprisingly, so I'd puntuate it:

    And not surprisingly, he is the most adequate student for undertaking such a difficult project.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I agree with TT about letting the spoken word drive the punctuation, specifically with regard to commas. (Please read the following sentence with that in mind!) In this case, however, I see two, admittedly subtle, shades of meaning, depending on the context, between using one or two commas here - i.e., depending on whether there is a pause between and and not. If this is intended to emphasise the last of a series of reasons why "he might be suited for the project", I might not break there. However, if it is the main intent to communicate about the lack of surprise, I might set that off on its own with the pause before and after it, thus writing it with two commas.
    Context, context, context:)
     

    johndot

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think that advice regarding the insertion (or not) of commas should adhere to strict rules and not be dependent upon “where you would break or pause when speaking”, for the simple reason that the intonation of some speakers (and of foreigners in particular) is very likely to be deceptive in this respect.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think that advice regarding the insertion (or not) of commas should adhere to strict rules and not be dependent upon “where you would break or pause when speaking”, for the simple reason that the intonation of some speakers (and of foreigners in particular) is very likely to be deceptive in this respect.
    I'm against very strict rules for punctuation, because punctuation can be a way of expressing one's personality, like inflection in speech.
     

    aparis2

    Senior Member
    American English
    I think that advice regarding the insertion (or not) of commas should adhere to strict rules and not be dependent upon “where you would break or pause when speaking”, for the simple reason that the intonation of some speakers (and of foreigners in particular) is very likely to be deceptive in this respect.


    Another good example to go against using it where one would pause is:
    "Let's eat children" vs "Let's eat, children"
    When spoken, there usually is no pause, but without the comma, you are saying that you are literally eating the children.
     

    FromPA

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think that advice regarding the insertion (or not) of commas should adhere to strict rules and not be dependent upon “where you would break or pause when speaking”, for the simple reason that the intonation of some speakers (and of foreigners in particular) is very likely to be deceptive in this respect.


    hear, hear.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    "The function of the comma is to make clear the grammatical structure, and hence the sense of the passage". That is from the OED. I think that is one of the main functions of punctuation: to make the communication clear. If any "rules" result in lack of clarity or change in meaning, they should be broken.

    Here's a set of rules from Purdue University that seem to make sense (second hit from g**gling "usage comma"). Check out #3 : "Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off clauses, phrases, and words that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause." It's not so much the intonation that is the issue here, it is the spaces between words, whether written or spoken. Intonation and stress in speech can affect meaning in ways that writing cannot easily capture.
    Guess I'll have to go back and read the previous threads on commas, since I'm sure there are likely to be a few at least :)
     

    losilmer

    Senior Member
    film4reel
    Which one is correct? And why?

    Neither is correct, because both of your examples lack commas (two and one comma, respectively). Commas are necessary for a correct intonation. The "not surprisingly" is like a parenthesis in the course of the sentence.

    I concur with cycloneviv's option:
    And, not surprisingly, he is the most adequate student for undertaking such a difficult project.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I don't pause after and here, but I would normally read a sentence with "and not" with more emphasis on the word "not" than on the following word. To get more emphasis on "surprisingly", and to group "not surprisingly" together (I pronounce them quickly as an inserted comment), I would use either parentheses or commas in the sample sentence.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Some useful punctuation guides are listed in the sticky at the top of the forum. One of them says:
    To begin with, forget anything you've ever been told about using a comma "wherever you would pause", or anything of the sort; this well-meaning advice is hopelessly misleading.
    Source

    Strict grammarians would take issue with this sentence because it begins with And ....

    If the quoted text had been the end of a longer sentence I would put commas around the passing comment, the aside: not surprisingly.
    <first part of sentence> ... and, not surprisingly, he is ...

    Many don't object to sentences beginning with And ....
    In the sentence we are given, I see the passing comment, the aside, as the entire phrase And not surprisingly. That leads me to punctuate the sentence with one comma:
    And not surprisingly, he is the most ...
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Thank you panjandrum for that quote. Now I've thought about it some more, I'm fine with that advice about pauses. I have realized that when I speak with pauses it already coincides with those rules of illustrating the grammatical structure or clarifying the meaning. When I speak, I therefore use the reverse of advice when reading aloud, i.e., make a lightly longer pause where a (correct) comma would be than between words not separated by one. The advice about "putting a comma where you would pause" therefore only applies to speakers who use that kind of speech pattern (drummed into me at an early age when English grammar, spelling and punctuation were more thoroughly "taught"). However, if you have not already been taught and become proficient in that speech pattern, perhaps if you are learning English as a second language, the advice would indeed be poor :)

    Over and out
    JS
     
    Some comments were made above about multiple phrases and maybe not adhering to strict rules of punctuation--this might be possible. Remember, though, that written language is not the same as spoken and may need other edits for clarity as well. There are a whole range of variables in spoken language (intonation, facial expression, speed, and rhythm, to name just a few that may be used) besides pauses, many of which are not easily indicated in written language, if at all. So how you write something may need to differ from how you say something.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Punctuation started off as marks to aid reading, in particular reading aloud. So if you look at the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, for example the only punctuation mark is the full stop (period), but these were breathing spaces. Over time, we have mixed the function of punctuation: very often they are there to indicate grammatical structure rather than reading style. (The question mark indicates grammatical structure, not rising intonation here: Is he all right? whereas it is used to indicate rising intonation here: He is all right?) The comma has mixed functions today.
     
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