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Punctuation and others Options
madoman
Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2017 10:40:37 AM
Rank: Newbie

Joined: 11/26/2017
Posts: 9
Neurons: 45
Hi all,

A few things please.


1. How should the below be?
- All changed one day while we were eating together when he asked me "how come you and Mary are divorced now?"
vs
- All changed one day while we were eating together when he asked me "How come you and Mary are divorced now?"


2. Commas after and:
- He was tall, strong, and hardworking.
vs.
- He was tall, strong and hardworking.

This punctuation issue has always been confusing. Any difference between American and British English?


3. Adjective options:
In the first example about Mary, he was surprised because Mary and I were good couples so divorce was not something anticipated. What other adjectives (other than surprised) can be used to to describe him?


4. Hanging over my head:
Again, in the first example about Mary, that question "how come you and Mary are divorced now" kept hanging over my head for weeks because there is truth to what he said. Is it formal to use "hanging over my head?" Are there other options to describe how the question kept me thinking?


Thank you all very much!
FounDit
Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2017 11:55:42 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/19/2011
Posts: 8,306
Neurons: 44,413
madoman wrote:
Hi all,

A few things please.


1. How should the below be?
- All changed one day while we were eating together when he asked me "how come you and Mary are divorced now?"
vs
- All changed one day while we were eating together when he asked me, "How come you and Mary are divorced now?"
This is how I would do it. Note the comma after "me".

2. Commas after and:
- He was tall, strong, and hardworking. This is how I was taught to do it, listing three traits.
vs.
- He was tall, strong and hardworking.

This punctuation issue has always been confusing. Any difference between American and British English?


3. Adjective options:
In the first example about Mary, he was surprised because Mary and I were good couples so divorce was not something anticipated. What other adjectives (other than surprised) can be used to to describe him?
Perhaps: curious, interested, nosy, jealous, hopeful.

4. Hanging over my head:
Again, in the first example about Mary, that question "how come you and Mary are divorced now" kept hanging over my head for weeks because there is truth to what he said. Is it formal to use "hanging over my head?" Are there other options to describe how the question kept me thinking?
The thought kept running through my mind/head.
The thought returned with great frequency.
I pondered that for days/weeks, etc.
The idea nagged me for days/weeks.

These are a few phrases we often use to describe an idea that remains.


Thank you all very much!


A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ~ William James ~
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2017 1:27:30 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 27,242
Neurons: 151,090
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
This is where FounDit and I were educated differently.

Punctuation has some 'hard and fast' rules - which make sense to almost everyone (except a few odd poets).

However there are also a lot of opinions, styles and fixed ideas.

1. The capital letter at the start of the word "How" is one of the fixed rules. It is the start of a quoted sentence and all sentences begin with a capital letter.

What to do before a quote is a matter of style.
When I was at school, I was taught that it should be ". . . when he asked me: "how come you and Mary are divorced now?"
Other people use a comma.
Other people don't put any punctuation.

The only things which would be wrong would be a question mark, exclamation or full stop, I think.

2. - He was tall, strong and hardworking.
The comma is to separate items in the list - the last two are already separated by 'and' so a comma is not needed.

Again, this is 'style' - some publishers (most, but not all American ones) like to use the extra comma.
- some publishers (most, but not all British ones) like to omit it.

3. You could use lots of adjectives for him - though they won't mean the same thing.
"Shocked", "amazed", "gobsmacked" (that's slang).

4. I feel that 'hanging over my head' doesn't quite mean the idea you want.
FounDit's suggestions fit very well.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
NKM
Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2017 2:40:02 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 2/14/2015
Posts: 4,186
Neurons: 192,114
Location: Corinth, New York, United States
As for the use of commas in a list, I prefer the "tall, strong and hardworking" form. As DragO says, the last two items are separated by "and", so the second comma isn't really needed.

But that's a matter of personal choice, and I wouldn't fault anyone whose preference doesn't agree with mine.

madoman
Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2017 4:55:29 PM
Rank: Newbie

Joined: 11/26/2017
Posts: 9
Neurons: 45
Thank you all for your replies!

3. Regarding how he was surprised, the word I am trying to think about is to describe how he couldn't believe that they got divorced, how it did not make sense. Surprised is good, but it's in formal context, so I am wondering if there are any other suggestions.

4. Regarding 'hanging over my head,' I am looking for an expression to describe how the question preoccupied the person. Something like, "Really, how come we ended up with a divorce? I should think it through and see if we should reconcile." It is in a formal (or semi-formal) context. Is 'preoccupied' good here?


Thank you all again!
NKM
Posted: Monday, December 04, 2017 11:29:23 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 2/14/2015
Posts: 4,186
Neurons: 192,114
Location: Corinth, New York, United States
"Bothered me" (or "kept bothering me") would be more formal, but "hanging over my head" is more expressive and not too informal for this kind of context.

Romany
Posted: Monday, December 04, 2017 12:29:39 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 13,342
Neurons: 40,648
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

I think the word "incredulous" might better describe how it was difficult to believe such a couple should divorce?

I don't agree that "hanging over my head" doesn't fit in with the rest of the language you are using. Besides which, it's a Classical reference so most educated people see it as a reference to Damocles and Dionysus - not inappropriate at all in "formal" writing. However, like the others, I don't think this is actually what you meant. I too think that any of the phrases on Foundit's list would do a good job.

I should also change "All" to "Everything". Nothing to do with formal or informal words: it's just that "...everything changed" sounds more "English" than "all changed" nowadays.

Punctuation is one of my bugbears, so I won't start on that! But yes, Drago's instruction that we always use capital letters to start a sentence etc. is one of the most important of all grammar rules. There is a tendency by social media users to drop capitals - but it's still wrong. There is no rule in English which says it's ok not to use them (at least outside of social media). Whether BE/AE, formal or informal, reported speech or prose...every English sentence begins with a capital letter.



madoman
Posted: Monday, December 04, 2017 9:55:33 PM
Rank: Newbie

Joined: 11/26/2017
Posts: 9
Neurons: 45
Thank you all very much!
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