To Beat a Grammarian: Commas (Special Words)

To Beat a Grammarian: Commas (Special Words)

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Here is where everything gets tricky, and this is why I hate commas and the grammarians that flip their lids over it. With these words—either, too, though, and except—all rules are up in the air. Let me show you.

I don’t want to go either.      /          I don’t want to go, either.

He can go too.                                    /          He can go, too.

I don’t think he should go though. /          I don’t think he should go, though.

But everyone is going except him.  /          But everyone is going, except him.

One sentence has a comma; the other, no. And somehow both are okay. Seriously! This is where a writer’s preference comes into play. You can call it part-style or part-prerogative, but the underlining issue here is actually emphasis and modern usage.

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If the sentence is trying to emphasize that someone can’t go, then ‘I don’t think he should go, though,’ would work best. Normally, you wouldn’t have to. It should be noted, though, that if any of these words come mid-sentence, it is customary to surround them with commas. See below.

Everyone, except him, is going.

Or

He, too, can go.

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Otherwise, when it comes to style, it is easy to find heavy examples of comma use with these words for any avid reader who has delved into those thick, wordy books of the Victorian era. Back then, overt comma usage was the norm. However, nowadays, we tend to lean a bit more conservative. Either way is okay, really. But the problem arises when style is taken for hard, fast rules.

Like the story of the monk who shut his cat in a box before meditating, only to have all of his students to run out and buy cats to lock up before they meditated, one must be able to separate rule from fashion. Some grammarians have practiced using commas for these words in a particular way for so long that they can’t budge. So be careful and prepared should you ever go head to head with one of these embittered wordsmiths. What might be style to us is unbreakable gospel for them.

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9 thoughts on “To Beat a Grammarian: Commas (Special Words)

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      1. I will say I *am* training myself to try to see it as a stylistic choice – but with that being said, it HAS to be consistent. Either have them, or don’t. I reviewed one book where sometimes the person would have the commas, and sometimes they wouldn’t. It was very hit or miss. So instead of it *looking* like a stylistic choice, it looked like a “I don’t know where to put commas”.

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        1. I agree, but I also feel the content should take front seat. That’s not to say that grammar should be thrown to the side. However, I feel I’m probably a bit more lax on these issues than you. For this reason, I’m writing these posts. A little self-education.

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          1. Misspelled words, missing punctuation, etc, can literally yank me out of a story I’m enjoying. I have no clue why. I didn’t major in English. I never *set out* to be one of ‘those people’, but I so am! lol. I’ve literally gotten irritated when I’ve found a misspelled word in a mass-print book. “How in the world did this not get caught? Don’t they have editors?! GARGH!” hahahah. I’m trying to tone it down, I am!

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          2. With all the grammarians I’ve met, it seems most are like you. They, too, didn’t major in English but defend it strongly. I, on the other hand, was an English major, yet I don’t take it so seriously. Go figure!

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