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Manuscript 101–Commas Pop Quiz Answers 6-10

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Here are the rest of the answers (and explantions) for the pop quiz:

6. The Declaration of Independence, which was signed on July 4, 1776, served as the catalyst for the Revolutionary War.
d. Comma needed after 1776.

Comma needed after 1776: While only one answer was correct on this question, there are two explanations for why the comma is needed. The first would be because the phrase which was signed on July 4, 1776 is an interjection, which is explained in the answer to question 1. It is also a rule that when a date is used in text, a comma comes before and after the year (Bedford 32i, CMS 6.48).

7. I went to the store and got asparagus and cauliflower and broccoli.
d. No commas needed.

Items in a series joined by conjunctions: We saw a couple of examples (numbers 1 & 3) of the need for the serial comma before the and when we have a list of three or more items. However, when a series of items are all joined by conjunctions, no commas are needed (Bedford 33h, CMS 6.20). In this case, the and serves the same function as a comma in separating the items in the list, making the use of the comma unnecessary.

8. The spy betrayed not only his country but his comrades.
d. No commas needed.

Antithetical elements: Not . . . but is one of the most difficult sentence constructions when it comes to figuring out if it needs a comma or not. The general rule of thumb goes back to the rule about restrictive and nonrestrictive phrases. If the meaning of the sentence is dependent upon the not . . . but phrases, no commas are needed. Conversely, if the not . . . but phrase is supplemental to the meaning of the sentence, two commas are needed, before the not and before the but (Bedford 32e, CMS 6.41):
    The spy’s crime was unforgivable, not only betraying his country, but also his comrades.

9. When she entered the room, she was dressed in black velvet, and she was wearing a huge, sparkling diamond necklace.
d. Both (b) and (c).

Comma needed after room: This is the introductory phrase comma (see explanation on #2). Comma needed after velvet. This is the independent clause comma (see explanation on #2).No comma needed after sparkling. This is the cumulative adjective rule (see explanations for #s 4 & 5). The name of the object is “diamond necklace”: a diamond, huge, sparkling necklace doesn’t make sense, therefore, no comma is needed after sparkling.

Actually, this sentence would be more correct with a semicolon after velvet, but for our purposes today, the comma is fine.

10. The writer who was recently signed to a multi-book contract will be here for a book signing on August 28.

10. The writer, who was recently signed to a multi-book contract, will be here for a book signing on August 28.

Ha ha—this was a trick question! The answer could be (a) or (b). Whether or not commas are needed depends on what you mean when you say the sentence—on whether or not the phrase who was recently signed to a multi-book contract is restrictive or nonrestrictive. Maybe using names will help illustrate it better:
    The John Smith who was recently signed to a multi-book contract will be here for a book signing on August 28. The John Smith who has sold only one book will be here to sign it on September 1.
In this example, the two phrases are restrictive—they provide differentiation between two writers both named John Smith.
    Johanna Smith will be here for a book signing on August 28. Did you know she recently signed a multi-book contract? John Smith, who has sold only one book, will be here to sign it on September 1.
    A little exaggerated, but in this example, I think you can see how the information has now become nonrestrictive, or supplemental, to the meaning of the sentences.

So, how did you fare? Do you know more about commas than you thought you did?

Tomorrow . . . the LIST—the standard rules for comma usage!

  1. Wednesday, May 30, 2007 1:41 pm

    If you throw in number 10 as a freebie, then I got 8/10 correct. As you know, it’s the series comma that gets me most of the time. I forget the one before the and. 😉


  2. Wednesday, May 30, 2007 2:03 pm

    My friend and I got into a big argument over this sentence 🙂 I insisted on B she insisted on A 🙂 Glad to know we’re both right. I think I failed the quiz…



  3. Wednesday, May 30, 2007 4:19 pm

    Yay! I was always pretty good with punctuation so I did pretty well. I may know be able to explain the rules but I remember most of them.

    And that not…but thing gets me every time.


  4. Wednesday, May 30, 2007 5:07 pm

    Pppssssssttt! I tagged you! Drop by the blog and see what ya hafta do!



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