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TomLaney1 June 5th, 2014 1:12pm

PUNCTUATION PTHURSDAY: "For July 4, we'll need a picnic dinner red, white, and blue sparklers and a camera." Two punctuation marks are missing. Are they commas or another mark? Answer and defend in Comments. No arguments on 1 vs. 2 marks, please.

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TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/07/14 11:49 am

Gold star! ❤️

Shazam Scaramouche, OH
06/05/14 10:27 pm

For July 4 we'll need: a picnic dinner, red, white, and blue sparklers, and a camera."

Depending on which style manual you use, the last comma could be dropped.

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TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/07/14 11:48 am

In a list (dinner, sparklers, and camera) in which one or more of the items CONTAINS commas, the main separator commas are promoted to semicolons. Thus, a sc after dinner and an "Oxford semicolon" after sparklers. :o)

DuckAndCower
06/05/14 10:00 pm

Semicolon or dash in the first part of of the sentence, and an Oxford comma later.

DuckAndCower
06/05/14 10:01 pm

Whoops, misread what the sentence was trying to say (guess that's why we need punctuation). Two semicolons in the list, then, right?

DuckAndCower
06/05/14 10:02 pm

I've never seen the term "picnic dinner" before, though.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/07/14 10:34 am

It's a picnic lunch in the evening. Fried chicken is mandatory! Silver star for getting it right on the second try! :o)

musiman28 Cotton country
06/05/14 6:18 pm

I say 2 commas. One after Dinner, one after sparklers I believe, but I'll have to read it again to be sure.

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musiman28 Cotton country
06/05/14 6:22 pm

And now I find I'm wrong!!!! It's the heat, that's what it is!!!!!! Bring winter back, please!!!!

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/07/14 10:31 am

It's hotter here off the caprock! At least you went with an Oxford comma. Most folks are totally unaware of the Oxford semicolon! Stay cool, buddy! :o)

jhug63 Arandelle
06/05/14 11:41 am

for July 4, we need a picnic dinner, red, white, and blue sparklers, and whatever that third thing was.
however a semicolon would also be acceptable

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 1:47 pm

Yeah, gotta love semicolons. They step in and clear up the confusion of all those commas! And it was a camera, to shoot pictures of the fireworks show! :o)

imanag My heaven on Earth
06/05/14 9:53 am

Yay Tom!!! Thanks for the extra grammatical fun! That's a strong case for a semicolon there. :)

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 1:42 pm

I'll see your semicolon after dinner and raise you one after sparklers! Gold star anyway! :o)

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:31 am

Welcome aboard, Nicole! Gold star for you today, but see my comment directly below this. :o)

TeaPartier Dont Tread on Me
06/05/14 8:03 am

Semicolon ";" is needed because one of the items on the list (the sparklers) already uses commas.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:20 am

Yes, gold star, but two semicolons for ease of reading. The "Oxford semicolon" tells the brain to "micropause" and rhetorically separate between the last two items. The "and" alone is ambiguous to the brain, so we add a , or ; .

TeaPartier Dont Tread on Me
06/05/14 9:06 am

By just saying semicolon, I meant it would be filled in in both "blanks"

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 1:39 pm

OH! Rebuke rescinded; reward restored. Repentant rhetorician. :o)

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:51 am

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

madeit Houston Area
06/05/14 7:15 am

A colon is used to separate two phrases that could each be stand alone sentences.

madeit Houston Area
06/05/14 7:33 am

What is wrong with me this morning? I meant semicolon.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:46 am

The other use of semicolons is to replace commas in a series where one or more items CONTAIN commas. That's the case here with three items - dinner, sparklers, and camera - with commas within the second item. :o)

DrCarpenter Ann Arbor
06/05/14 6:55 am

For July 4, we'll need a picnic dinner; red, white, and blue sparklers; and a camera.

pateach2 love my son
06/05/14 6:48 am

Picnics dinner; red, white, and blue sparklers; and a camera.

Reply
pateach2 love my son
06/05/14 6:49 am

Picnic* dang you auto cucumber.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:32 am

Gold star to you; Bronx cheer to autoconnect.

TopsQueen Oregon Coast
06/05/14 6:41 am

Hey, that's RJ's and my birthday! You forgot birthday cake!

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pateach2 love my son
06/05/14 6:49 am

And wrote happy belated to terra. Mine is 4 days before that!!!

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:28 am

OK, the dinner includes a big ol' cake! I'll get a bigger basket!

TopsQueen Oregon Coast
06/05/14 8:08 am

Thank you. I'm totally punctuation challenged. When my granddaughter was five she thought everyone celebrating my birthday was pretty awesome.

TopsQueen Oregon Coast
06/05/14 8:47 am

Please keep the prayers coming. I'm feeling better but I still get tired very quickly.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 1:52 pm

Still praying that you recover so well that you don't need to drink 5-Hour Energy drinks all the time you're tackling the Magic Kingdom! ❤️❤️❤️

TopsQueen Oregon Coast
06/05/14 2:02 pm

I don't think my heart would take kindly to energy drinks. I'll probably be sitting when they stand in line.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 2:21 pm

You know that you can rent an "ECV" (electric convenience vehicle) at Disney parks, don't you? I always do. There's info on their website.

pateach2 love my son
06/05/14 2:26 pm

Wait Tops what's going on?! What did I miss? I haven't been on SOH lately and the last on ig was you babysitting.

TopsQueen Oregon Coast
06/05/14 3:41 pm

I have tachycardia. And I'm also a diabetic/ hypoglycemic. Things like that really affect my heart rate.

madeit Houston Area
06/05/14 7:17 am

Oh wait, I read it wrong. Comma after dinner.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:26 am

Nope. See my responses to others below this. No colons, no added or subtracted commas. My wife had part of her colon removed. Does that help? Two identical non-comma separators in a list of three items (dinner, sparklers, and camera)

sdbrev210 The Pursuit of Happiness
06/05/14 6:43 am

Actually I have two solutions: the first being add commas after dinner and sparklers; the second, add a colon after need and semi-colons after dinner and sparklers. Use of the colon implies a list to follow. Using commas to distinguish sparkler

sdbrev210 The Pursuit of Happiness
06/05/14 6:45 am

...colors requires the semicolon to separate separate item in a list.

There is, however, disagreement in my first option for the need of the second comma after sparklers and "and" when the last listed item follows "and." Both are acceptable.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:11 am

Bottom line? Illegal use of commas. You had the semicolon rule down, but messed up in thinking that only a colon could make it a list. The sentence as presented needed only the addition of two semicolons, after dinner and sparklers, because it's a

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:17 am

list of three items - dinner, sparklers, and camera - with commas within one of the items. Thus we have to go to the next level of separators. As to the importance of the second comma/semicolon, see my explanation below to alynn & yellowflash.

sdbrev210 The Pursuit of Happiness
06/05/14 9:17 am

Meh...I'm a punctuation non-conformist! Use of the colon to introduce a series of items is OK as long as it's not added following a verb or preposition. I would add..."the following:" after "need," and then use the 2 semis as originally proposed.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 1:59 pm

Nothing wrong with the colon. I was just saying that it's not mandatory to introduce a list with one. Your way is fine, but reads as slightly more formal.
Hey, I heard this morning that Big D has a good chance of hosting GOP 2016. Woo hoo!

Rosebud Ohio
06/05/14 6:31 am

You're not eating the sparklers and camera (I hope!) so no colon. It's not a list of food.
It's only one sentence, so no semicolons.
I'll go with commas, because of the type of list it is.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:04 am

Three items: dinner, sparklers, camera. But one of those items contains commas. How does that affect your choice of separating punctuation?

Rosebud Ohio
06/05/14 7:12 am

They just make it look weird lol

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:48 am

That's your teachers' fault! If they had taught it sufficiently it would look normal to you.

alynn Somewhere wonderful
06/05/14 6:29 am

You have me second guessing myself. A comma is needed after dinner. Some would say another comma is needed after sparklers, but I've heard from an editor that in a group of 3 you do not put a comma after the second in the list. Also, should be 4th!

yellowflash1220
06/05/14 6:45 am

Not to argue about the presence of the second comma, as per tlaney's rule, but the last comma in a list is called the Oxford comma & can be present or absent as you wish

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 6:55 am

You can see the reason for Oxford commas in "red, white, and blue sparklers." These are obviously three single-colored sparklers. But without the Oxford comma, I could have two kinds of sparklers: one that burns red and one that burns white AND blue.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 6:58 am

But, Alynn, the commas you inserted should not be commas. The hint I'll give you is that one item in the list CONTAINS commas. Now what marks would you have to use?

alynn Somewhere wonderful
06/05/14 7:04 am

Ah, thank you! I've always thought it belongs, but my editor has specifically said it does not. Good to know that it's officially optional!

alynn Somewhere wonderful
06/05/14 7:06 am

Ah, Tom....you are a sneaky guy! I see what you're doing. Semicolons then?

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:41 am

Exactly. When an item in a series CONTAINS commas, the separating commas are promoted to semicolons, a stronger separator. So the color details of the sparklers made the difference. And if your Ed doesn't like Oxford commas, make HIM take them out!

yellowflash1220
06/05/14 7:54 am

I've always wondered what you would do if it was a list in a list in a list

alynn Somewhere wonderful
06/05/14 8:01 am

Thanks for thre explanation Tom! I sure learned something helpful today!

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:04 am

YF - probably parentheses. Thank God I've never run across that best!

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:05 am

Alynn - you're more than welcome! How is SO doing?

alynn Somewhere wonderful
06/05/14 8:11 am

Thanks for asking! I went over yesterday evening and he's doing much better...sitting and rising is painful, but he can walk around now. I think he'll be almost new by the end of next week, if I had to guess.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:34 am

God is awesome! We'll keep praying! ❤️

Cole12 ...
06/05/14 6:26 am

"For July 4, we'll need a picnic dinner; red, white, and blue sparklers; and a camera."

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TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 6:49 am

Platinum star! First correct answer, even though it's without a defense.

Cole12 ...
06/05/14 6:52 am

You need to use semicolons because "red, white, and blue sparklers" is a list within a list.

madeit Houston Area
06/05/14 7:32 am

I see the point. I was confused.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:50 am

Exactly, Cole! Lots of people are missing this. :o)

Oboette17 Senioritis
06/05/14 8:03 am

Ok, wait. I was taught in English that every time a ; was used, each segment within the ; had to be able to stand alone as a complete sentence; "red, white, and blue sparklers" isn't a sentence because there is no verb. There's another use for ;?

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:10 am

Yes! A sc is also a separator used to replace commas in a series where one or more of the items CONTAIN commas - the separating commas are promoted to semicolons to avoid confusion. This is a completely legit use of sc's that appears in all style

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:13 am

manuals and all good grammar textbooks. Baaaad teacher! Shaaaame! :-D

Oboette17 Senioritis
06/05/14 6:24 am

It depends. Is the sentence trying to describe the picnic dinner, or is it listing things in addition to the picnic dinner, or is it including things in the picnic, in which one of them is dinner?

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 6:47 am

Three items: dinner, sparklers, camera.

sdbrev210 The Pursuit of Happiness
06/05/14 9:21 am

Wait! You used a colon!!

chickencookie Jihad Joe
06/05/14 6:21 am

Picnic dinner; red, white and blue sparklers.

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TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 6:46 am

Close! You don't get to remove any punctuation, and you need to add one more mark.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 7:54 am

Close. add another semicolon after sparklers for ease of reading. Commas and sc's are "pause" signs to the brain.

usernamehere Raise a little hell
06/05/14 8:20 am

That was a comma after sparklers. Would that work?

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:27 am

Separators of the same level in a series must be identical: "red, white, and blue" and "dinner; sparklers; and camera." The sc is a 'more powerful' separator than a comma - i.e., it's 'a level up' from the comma. The presence of commas within an item

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 8:28 am

in a list necessitates the use of semicolon separators.

TierasPet
06/05/14 6:17 am

Dinner, sparklers,. ?

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TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 6:17 am

I'll publish my answer in about an hour to give y'all a chance to defend your own answers. Please tell me whether you'd like me to add this as a weekly feature! :o)

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TierasPet
06/05/14 6:17 am

Yes please.

Oboette17 Senioritis
06/05/14 6:24 am

Hey Tom, I had a question in another poll about a use of effect/affect, and you probably know the answer

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 6:43 am

Yes. Noun or verb? To affect someone is to have an effect on them. To effect something is to cause it to occur or change (note that "cause and effect" relationship!). An affect is an emotion reflected in facial expression and/or body language. :o)

Oboette17 Senioritis
06/05/14 8:00 am

How about when paraphrasing something, and they said something to the (affect/effect) of this

firefly5 the verse
06/05/14 1:30 pm

For both of you.

xkcd.com/326/

I think you'll enjoy this. and I totally do this. I'm kind of mean like that.

TomLaney1 Jesus is Lord
06/05/14 2:15 pm

That was great! I love xkcd! Thanks!

firefly5 the verse
06/05/14 10:03 pm

My pleasure.

And Tom, I didn't forget about your suggestion (regarding a Science Friday poll), but I'm thinking I'll use it for a movie-related poll.