On 20 April 2010 18:17, Andrew Sullivan <a...@shinkuro.com> wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 06:06:57PM +0300, Dotan Cohen wrote:
>> These are contrived examples.
> I'm pretty sure that all the examples in Fowler are not contrived
> examples: they're real ones from real texts.  And it's not as though
> Fowler wasn't pretty keen on clarity and elegance in prose.

If not contrived, then cherry-picked. Comma usage is no different than
any other tool in writing: sometimes the author is presented with a
corner case and must either risk ambiguity or revise his phrasing.

>> In every case the writer could reword
>> the sentence to remove the ambiguity, as I demonstrated in an earlier
>> post.
> Sure, you can always rewrite a sentence in a way less idiomatic in
> order to avoid the problem.  Alternatively, you could do the sensible
> thing and use a comma to avoid ambiguity in an otherwise perfectly
> normal English idiom.

Which of the two choices is the sensible one depends on the situation.
I agree that proper usage of the commas could often be the sensible

> Enumerations are ubiquitous, and it's not
> unusual for items to be enumerated already to have embedded
> conjunctions.

I do not find it unusual. Rather, I find that many authors (or
writers, or journalists, or bloggers) do not take the time to
proofread for ambiguity. It borders on the irresponsible.

>> The problem is not the commas, the problem is the desire to find
>> ambiguity and then to place blame.
> I don't see who it is that's supposed to be placing blame here.

Those who insist that there is a problem with the rules of grammar.
The literature should not present the situation as a problem, rather,
unambiguity and methods to deal with ambiguity should be taught.

>> A similar example for capitalization:
> No, these are not similar to the obviously common case of having
> conjunctions in the names of firms, in the way we refer to couples,
> and so on.

Correct. They are similar in the sense that they are examples of
ambiguity which could be eliminated by a simple rephrasing of the

Dotan Cohen


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