Problem with comma usage and sentence clarity.

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Roundhouse

Senior Member
Bengali
Hi, I am new here. I have tried solving my problem in other sites/forums but I am still struggling with it. My problem concerns the use of commas. Here the sentence:

My original sentence:

  • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers from the weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers out of work and out on the streets.
With Commas as suggested by some:
  • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers from the weapons industries [,] and at least half a million demobilized soldiers [,] out of work and out on the streets.

I am wondering if the commas in the 3rd brackets are correctly placed, if they are even needed in the first place. I feel that they are not supposed to be there at all. Others, who hold esteem positions in the usage of English Language have suggested that the commas are necessary.

A simple version should look like this:

  • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers and millions of soldiers out of work and out on the streets.

I feel that the bold part together, joined by "and" is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Putting "and at least half a million demobilized soldiers" within a pair of commas makes it nonessential. But it is not nonessential information and without this, although the sentence would make sense the meaning of the sentence would be significantly different. Also, according to this: Extended Rules for Commas // Purdue Writing Lab point number 14 says Don't put a comma between the two nouns, noun phrases, or noun clauses in a compound subject or compound object.

I suppose thousands of workers from the weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers are noun phrases taking subject/s.

If there is any modification that will make the sentence clear, then please suggest so.
 
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  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I like your simplified version better for the reasons you give. :)

    However, "at least half a million demobilized soldiers" and "millions of soldiers" are not the same. You should make sure that the sentence says what you want it to say.
     

    Roundhouse

    Senior Member
    Bengali
    I like your simplified version better for the reasons you give. :)

    However, "at least half a million demobilized soldiers" and "millions of soldiers" are not the same. You should make sure that the sentence says what you want it to say.
    Hi, yes I just wrote that in the simplest form possible. However, I cannot use the simple version as it omits a lot of information. Such as thousands of workers will lose their jobs, with the focus to those working in the weapons industries.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers from the weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers out of work and out on the streets.
    I think the commas make the sentence easier to read, but I would put the soldiers first. There are, after all, many more of them. The "thousands of weapons industry workers" phrase may be regarded as additional information:

    • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave at least half a million demobilized soldiers, as well as thousands of workers from the weapons industries, out of work and out on the streets.
     

    Roundhouse

    Senior Member
    Bengali
    • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers from the weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers out of work and out on the streets.
    I think the commas make the sentence easier to read, but I would put the soldiers first. There are, after all, many more of them. The "thousands of weapons industry workers" phrase may be regarded as additional information:


    • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave at least half a million demobilized soldiers, as well as thousands of workers from the weapons industries, out of work and out on the streets.
    But my sentence has the same form as this: The strike would leave thousands of people and their many dogs without food. In this case, we don't put "and their many dogs" in a pair of commas. I am having difficulty understanding why my sentence is suggested to use the commas. Using the commas show that the part in the commas is additional information, just like you mention. But that is not the case. Both the groups: workers and soldiers are essential to the meaning because to the authorities, both groups were equally important.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I see the phrase "[,] and at least half a million demobilized soldiers [,]" as an aside - non-defining and it need not be there. It should therefore be within commas.

    If the original had no commas, then it is defining, and commas should not be used.
     
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    Roundhouse

    Senior Member
    Bengali
    I disagree with velisarius: the phrase "[,] and at least half a million demobilized soldiers [,]" is an aside - it is non-defining and need not be there. It should therefore be within commas.
    But why do you suppose and at least half a million demobilized soldiers is non-defining and need not be there? Without it the sentence does not retain the same meaning, even if it does make sense. Here: "Authorities were worried about workers" is not the same as "Authorities were worried about workers AND soldiers".

    In my opinion, both the phrases about workers (How many? Which workers? = thousands, and from weapons industries) and soldiers (what specifically about them? demobilized and half a million of them) limits/restricts the meaning of the sentence.

    "Essential clauses are necessary to identify the person or thing that is being described. They are essential to understanding the sentence. They restrict the meaning to that specific person/thing."

    And so, I feel that both the phrases connected by "and" are essential to the meaning of the sentence and would not take the commas.

    EDIT: I saw your addition after replying. :) Well, I wrote the original sentence, without the commas intending that both phrases are essential. But then some said that it should be within commas. I am trying to find out why, and trying hard to find anyone who would agree with me.
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    But why do you suppose and at least half a million demobilized soldiers is non-defining and need not be there?
    To put it simply, if it is within commas, it is intended by the writer to be non-defining, if there are no commas, it is intended by the writer to be defining.

    The thrust of "According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers from the weapons industries [,] and at least half a million demobilized soldiers [,] out of work and out on the streets." is that the main concern was for the workers who would be unemployed. They are unemployed and on the streets, instantly. Soldiers can be released more gradually and the numbers, to an extent, can be controlled.

    The addition of "[,] and at least half a million demobilized soldiers [,]" could be replaced by "which would be exacerbated by <insert any disadvantageous situation>"
     

    Roundhouse

    Senior Member
    Bengali
    To put it simply, if it is within commas, it is intended by the writer to be non-defining, if there are no commas, it is intended by the writer to be defining.

    The thrust of "According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave thousands of workers from the weapons industries [,] and at least half a million demobilized soldiers [,] out of work and out on the streets." is that the main concern was for the workers who would be unemployed. They are unemployed and on the streets, instantly. Soldiers can be released more gradually and the numbers, to an extent, can be controlled.

    The addition of "[,] and at least half a million demobilized soldiers [,]" could be replaced by "which would be exacerbated by <insert any disadvantageous situation>"
    Your explanation of the sentence with commas is correct. However, I wrote the original sentence, without the commas, intending that both phrases (workers and soldiers) are essential. But then some said that it should be within commas. I am trying to find out why, and trying hard to find anyone who would agree with me. :)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Your explanation of the sentence with commas is correct. However, I wrote the original sentence, without the commas, intending that both phrases (workers and soldiers) are essential.
    In that case, you write it without commas. It is that simple.
    I am trying to find out why,
    Why what? Why they said that? - If so the answer is that they did not give you a complete answer and they had assumed that the phrase was non-defining (probably because you did not explain that it was defining in your question.)

    Consider
    John, and his friend Paul, is a great pianist.
    John and his friend Paul are great pianists.
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I'm comma happy in general but I don't think your sentence needs the commas. If you could put a number on the workers it might mesh better.
    • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave 200,000 thousand workers from the weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers out of work and out on the streets.
    I obviously made up the number 200,000 but if that number is available (this isn't a direct quote but a summary, right?) then that might make the two parts seem more equal. You would be combining two similar types of numbers.
     

    Roundhouse

    Senior Member
    Bengali
    I'm comma happy in general but I don't think your sentence needs the commas. If you could put a number on the workers it might mesh better.
    • According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave 200,000 thousand workers from weapons industries and at least half a million demobilized soldiers out of work and out on the streets.
    I obviously made up the number 200,000 but if that number is available (this isn't a direct quote but a summary, right?) then that might make the two parts seem more equal.
    Hi Kentix, Yes its not a quote, its a summary. And you are absolutely right. The original numbers were 250,000 workers and 500,000 soldiers. Because I used language form to talk about the numbers, half a million made sense but quarter of a million workers seemed overkill. Again, if you use 200,000 (as you mention) then I have to omit the word "thousand" and then the sentence will take numbers, which is what I wanted to avoid. You are right about them meshing together.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ...several hundred thousand workers and half a million soldiers...

    How about that? They are both approximations and don't use any numerals.
     

    Roundhouse

    Senior Member
    Bengali
    ...several hundred thousand workers and half a million soldiers...

    How about that? They are both approximations and don't use any numerals.
    -> According to Sautter (1980), authorities feared that the end of the war would leave several hundred thousand workers from the weapons industries and half a million demobilized soldiers out of work and out on the streets.

    Wow, this actually works pretty well. Thanks!
     
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