comma or semicolon with clause coordination: I am..., I want..., I...

qizi

Senior Member
Chinese
I am still young, I want to live on, I want to conquer life.
This is a sentence quoted from an English version of a Chinese essay. Is that a correct sentence? Why comma is used rather than semicolon? And is it necessary to add an "and" after the second comma?
The usage of comma has been confusing me for a long time.:(
Thank you.
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    If you're like me, the comma will confuse you throughout your life -- especially since popular usage changes over the years, and writers stick to what they like: either commas to separate everything (as I was taught), or so few commas that you have to reread sentences two or three times to figure out what is being said.

    I can see your desire for semicolons here... but my tastes have changed to simpler punctuation consistent with reader understanding. For that reason, I would use the sentence as they have it. It's understandable and it's a series of three thoughts.

    If commas are speed bumps, semicolons are hurdles. In this case, I don't think you want to make the reader jump over hurdles.

    Just one man's opinion... there will be others.
     
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    qizi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If commas are speed bumps, semi-colons are hurdles. In this case, I don't think you want to make the reader jump over hurdles.
    Thank you, copyright. This metaphor is interesting.:) But I also want to know whether I am allowed to use commas like that in my writing. I mean, does it comply with the grammar? Or only the well-known writers can use it that way?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Thank you, copyright. This metaphor is interesting.:) But I also want to know whether I am allowed to use commas like that in my writing. I mean, does it comply with the grammar? Or only the well-known writers can use it that way?
    I think that as long as you use commas consistently -- the same way, for the same reasons, throughout your writing -- and you keep in mind your reader's understanding -- make it clear and easy for them -- then you can choose a style you like.

    That may not be the best advice for taking tests in school, of course, but once you don't have an instructor grading your writing, you can do as you like, consistent with the principles I mentioned above.

    Perhaps the easiest way to decide what style you like is to go to the bookstore or the library and choose a book that uses a minimum of commas and another that uses a lot of them and see which you prefer.

    Remember that great writers weren't always great writers. They had to learn the language just like the rest of us. And they learned whatever rules they were taught. After that, out of school, they either kept using those rules, or simplified those rules, or created rules for themselves that they liked better.

    Just remember your reader.
     

    qizi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you very much. I learnt a lot from you. "Just remember your reader", I will always keep this in mind.
    Wish you a good day.:)
     
    Remember that great writers weren't always great writers. They had to learn the language just like the rest of us. And they learned whatever rules they were taught. After that, out of school, they either kept using those rules, or simplified those rules, or created rules for themselves that they liked better.
    In addition to Copyright's caveat, remember too that many successful writers rely completely on editors and proofreaders to correct their mistakes.

    All published writers are constrained by the standards and style of their publishing house, and, I dare swear, always have been.

    Rover
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    True, if they're lucky. These days, it seems that many publishers are hardly more than printers and distributors. Many expect you to supply print-ready manuscripts and will publish whatever you hand them.

    And if no one will accept your work and you opt for self-publishing, you'll definitely want to have a comma strategy. :)
     
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    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    There are three other ways of punctuating this:

    I am still young, I want to live on and I want to conquer life.
    I am still young, I want to live on, and I want to conquer life.
    I am still young; I want to live on; I want to conquer life.

    These three can be used no matter what the three independent clauses are. The reason why just commas are acceptable in this sentence is the parallelism. Caesar's famous saying is another example: 'I came, I saw, I conquered.' For some reason the similarity in form of the three clauses, plus the fact that they're linked closely together in thought, means that it is normal to use just the commas, in this way.
     
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