comma before 'by' [preposition]; c. splice: be patented, by blurring

bobert16

New Member
Canada - English
Hi, I have two sentences that are rather long, and I feel that a comma would be appropriate to clarify which part of the sentence belongs to which subject.
"He also responds to those critics who argue that life materials are mere discoveries of nature and cannot therefore be patented, by blurring the distinction between discovery and invention."

"He also deals with criticisms levied against corporations who use patent laws to their own advantage to increase the costs of diagnostic tests, by reiterating that no such tests could even exist if the technology had not first been invented and patented."Are these acceptable uses of the comma? Or are they comma splices? Thanks for your help!
 
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Oh dear, I'm going to have to totally disagree with you there, Cyber.
    I feel both commas are virtually vital for two reasons: (1) they very kindly give one a bit of a breather in the middle of these long and somewhat complex sentences; and (2) rather than cause confusion, for me they actually helped to clarify that by blurring/reiterating refer back to responds to and deals with rather than the much-closer patented and use or increase. (Admittedly there isn't much chance of confusing these, but I do feel the commas help to pinpoint the (main) verbs they refer back to.)

    EDIT: P.S. Sorry, Bobert, but I don't actually know what a comma splice is, so I can't answer that question.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm with cyberpedant on this one (disagreeing with ewie again! scary!).

    You haven't created a comma splice, if by that you mean "a sentence in which two independent clauses are joined by a comma with no conjunction" (source).

    But you have created an awkward hiatus.

    The sentences are long and complex, but I don't think you can improve them simply by inserting commas.

    You could try restructuring - here are a couple of possibilities:

    Responding to those critics who argue that life materials are mere discoveries of nature and cannot therefore be patented, he again blurs the distinction between discovery and invention.

    As regards criticisms levied against corporations who use patent laws to their own advantage to increase the costs of diagnostic tests, he deals with these by reiterating that no such tests could even exist if the technology had not first been invented and patented.
     

    Spagbol

    Member
    England, English (UK)
    I would use a comma as follows: "...advantage, to increase the costs of diagnostic tests, ..." This clause can be taken out and the sentence would still make sense.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In the first sentence one comma creates a bizarre hiccup, no comma creates confusion.
    You need two.
    He also responds to those critics who argue that life materials are mere discoveries of nature, and cannot therefore be patented, by blurring the distinction between discovery and invention.
    The clause bracketed by commas is incidental to the meaning of the sentence.

     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I also think the commas should stay to prevent the potential confusion panj refers to

    "... cannot therefore be patented by blurring the distinction ..."

    " ... to increase the costs of diagnostic tests by reiterating that ..."

    Given the relative complexity of these sentences, the reader deserves some guideposts!
     

    Full Tilt Boogie

    Senior Member
    British English
    Try these:

    "He also responds to those critics who argue that life materials are mere discoveries of nature and cannot[,] therefore[,] be patented by blurring the distinction between discovery and invention."

    "He also deals with criticisms levied against corporations who use patent laws[,] to their own advantage[,] to increase the costs of diagnostic tests by reiterating that no such tests could even exist[,] if the technology had not first been invented and patented."

     
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