Ellipsis, the space before, after, and in the middle of

The other day I looked on the WEB to find out if there is a space between the end of a word and the first dot of an ellipsis, because my word processor said there should not be a space. Bad mistake. I found nothing but a conflicting mess of misinformation.

The basic idea is the three dots of an ellipsis stand for one or more missing words usually in a quote. OK, so if it stands for a word and there is a space between words then there should be a space between the end of the last word and the first dot of an ellipsis. If an ellipsis represents a word then there should also be a space between the last dot of the three and the next word. English language is not logical so you can find arguments for both a space and not a space.

There are arguments that there are, or are not, spaces between the three dots in an ellipsis.

Then I found on the Grammar Girl site the statement that the four dot ellipsis does not exist. She must not have a Ph. D. The MLA manual that is used for academic papers, like Ph. D. thesis, says that if you do not use one or more sentences in a quote then you show that by using a four dot ellipsis. The four dots of the ellipsis represents a one or more missing sentences.

My advice. Use the whole quote or no quote.

Stay strong, write on. Professor Hyram Voltage

Are Commas necessary?

No not really.

Microsoft recently release a study of documents written on computers running Windows software. One of the big finding is that too many people use too many commas in their writing.

That doesn’t answer the question of where they got the documents and where they store those documents. They say there is no personally identifiable information that would tie the document back to the writer. What if the document is a personal letter with the writer’s name and address in the letter or even passwords and login information. Too many companies have been hacked lately, Microsoft could have a very incriminating letter you wrote in their data bank waiting to be hacked and that letter held for ransom or that letter put out to the world destroying your life.

Back to commas. The way the article was written I interpreted it too mean that the majority of people (that means over 50% of the writers) use too many commas.

The article also said that too many writers don’t use commas when they should. Again, (should a comma be after again? There’s a 50/50 change it shouldn’t be there.) I took this to mean that over 50% of the writers don’t know where to put commas.

The article did not say what set of rules they used to judge where commas should be placed. In America there is no set standard. I’m sorry grammar Nazis, there are no set rules and you’re just making them up and calling everyone else stupid for not using your set of rules. If Microsoft used the Chicago manual of style then you would have a comma after the item, in a serial string of items, that comes before the conjunction. If they used the APA style manual you do not put a comma before the conjunction. Comma usage varies a lot more than that in different style manuals.

Scribendi just had a email newsletter that demanded that you must have a comma after each item in a series including after the item before the conjunction. Then they mention the APA style handbook without telling you that the APA demands no comma before the conjunction. The APA is used by many magazines.

There was a court case where a woman (sister 1) sued her sisters. Her mother’s will said the estate should be divided between sister one, sister two and sister three. Sister one argued that she should get half of the estate since there was no comma between sister two and sister three. Besides sister one quit her job, paid her own money to help her mother in her last years, where the other two sister didn’t do diddly. The judge went with the way he was taught in school and they all got one third. I will let you decide if justice was done. Nothing is as simple as I wrote above and leave the writing of wills and contracts to specialist.

Go with the Harvard style of commas for items in a series and put a comma after the item before the junction.

Stay strong, write on, and don’t use so many commas.  Professor Hyram Voltage


Comma, The Revenge of the

It’s amazing that Watson, the IBM computer, can diagnosis cancer, but it can not tell you where to place a comma in an English sentence.

Of course you can’t get two different English grammar teachers to agree where to put a comma (in all cases). Those teacher will give you an F if you don’t follow their personal rules (and you have to declare them gods of the English language).

Take the simple case of putting commas between two or more items in a row. There’s Harvard way where you put a comma after each item, including after the item just before the conjunction (usually an and). Then there is the other way where you don’t put a comma after the item before the conjunction, expounded by that other Ivy League college.

If you write articles for magazines you should be using the AP style guide and not put a comma before the conjunction, unless the editor or publisher went to Harvard.

If you write books then you should use the Chicago Manual of Style which requires you to put a comma after the item before the conjunction, unless the editor or publisher went to that other college.

One author was talking about finding editors and she required the editor to use the Chicago Manual of Style. She sent prospective editors a sample of her writing. In that sample she had two places where there were items in a row. If the editor did not put a comma after the item before the conjunction then she knew the editor did not know the Chicago Manual of Style. For the editors that put a comma before the conjunction in one place and not the other she knew that they were bad editors.

Revenge. Last month I attended the Condor science fiction convention. On one panel of science fiction book authors was a teacher of High School English. She had a YA book at a publisher. The book publisher removed all the commas form an action scene to make the scene read faster. She was indignant, she knew where comas belonged, she was a teacher. She left them out. She wanted the book published.

We need more publishers like that.

Stay strong, write on.                 Professor Hyram Voltage

Writing and grammar

Warning Rant Below.

I had a talk with a budding young writer the other day. When I mentioned the  trouble I had with grammar she said let the editor take care of it.

This may be an attitude of the cell phone generation, but I strive to do quality work. I work hard to make the grammar better. As my old photography teacher stressed, Take the best picture you can. Don’t plan on fixing it in the darkroom, photoshop, or in production.

One good place to find information on grammar usage is The Purdue Online Writers Lab https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. The Purdue OWL sites the American Psychological Association style guide and the Modern Language Association style guide. The APA style guide is for papers written for the Social Sciences and the MLA style guide is for papers written for Liberal Arts.

The information in the Purdue OWL is very good but the style guides they site are not for works that are intended to be read by the general public or to be sold. Buyer be ware.

Stay strong, write on.                      Professor Hyram Voltage.