Grammar Dominatrix Miss Elvira Smedley whips your candy ass with commas, and you love it, bitch.


I have to get this off my chest.

It’s about something grammatical that is tearing my heart out by the roots, if a heart has roots in addition to all of those gross, rubbery-looking tubes and valves and shit. OK, so maybe not roots. But torn out.

Look it’s a metaphor, OK? Are you trying to help or not?

Alrighty then. What was I saying?

Oh yeah, restrictive and non-restrictive clauses and the correct use of commas.

I thought this was just something that illiterate millennials, if that’s not redundant, suffered from when posting stuff online about Adele’s latest “album” or trading instructions about how to microwave food faster.

Awe-SOMMMMMME!

But no. It is pandemic. It is appearing in PhD theses, in supposedly high-end magazines, but – let me make an analogy:

hbcYou can take The Bay – a byword for any brand whose defining character is beige, boring, my grandma would love it and I-wouldn’t-be-caught-dead – change the name to “Hudson’s Bay” styled in a groovy-antique serif font, shove a Saks Fifth Avenue concession up its ass, and after all that—

Nobody’s fooled, honey. Where’s my itchy throw with the ghastly stripes, my dog needs one, and then I’m outta here.

It’s exactly, I mean literally, the same with grammar.

HERE IS WHAT IS TEARING MY HEART OUT BY THE ROOTS OR THE GROSS, RUBBERY-LOOKING TUBES AND VALVES AND SHIT OR WHATEVER WE DECIDED ABOUT THE METAPHOR THINGY, I MISSED THAT BIT:

What is wrong with this sentence?-

Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before fellow composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda.

It is the commas before and after “Dmitri Shostakovich”.

You do not use commas with a RESTRICTIVE CLAUSE.

Here’s the deal: can you remove the words “Dmitri Shostakovich” and still have the sentence make sense:

…only a few months before fellow composer was officially condemned….

No, you can’t. You have to have that clause there or it doesn’t make sense. What fellow composer? Dmitri Shostakovich.  The clause is restrictive, the words must flow and work together.

So here it is corrected using that restrictive clause:

Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before fellow composer Dmitri Shostakovich was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda.

You could rewrite the sentence so that you have a NON-restrictive clause:

Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before Dmitri Shostakovich, his fellow composer, was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda

Here, you CAN take out the words “his fellow composer” that are between the commas, and it still makes sense:

Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before Dmitri Shostakovich was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda.

RESTRICTIVE Clause – NO commas (the clause is essential for the sentence to make sense)

NON-RESTRICTIVE Clause – Commas (the clause can be omitted and the sentence still makes sense.)

SO:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to London in 2015

NOT

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, traveled to London in 2015

BUT also correct is:

Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, traveled to London in 2015

Geddit?

This error is now present everywhere, and it is an appalling example of what happens when people no longer read anything but garbage online. But when you read quality stuff – printed, published literature – that has jumped through all the hoops, you absorb correct language just as quickly.

Look out for this egregious error in your online travels, if accuracy and truth matter to you. Because when you can’t accurately use your own language, you can’t accurately express your thoughts.

Here endeth the lesson. Thanks for being there!  I love you guys!  You’re Awesommmmme!!

Now drop those knickers.



BONUS QUESTION:

What’s wrong with this sentence:

Donald Trump, Supreme Leader of the world’s greatest democracy,  hater of press freedom, four-time bankrupt, manipulative demagogue, proud misogynist, a man who holds the judiciary in contempt, someone with no experience of governing or knowledge of the workings of his own country’s democratic structure, was elected POTUS and given sole possession of the nuclear codes by a minority of eligible voters in November, 2016.

HINT:  It ain’t the commas.

~

Advertisements