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 Post subject: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2004 7:18 pm 
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AP: In Rochester, a task force made
up of federal, state and local agencies drew up a six-month plan to undercut violent crime in the Crescent section where more than four-fifths of the city's 57 homicides occurred last year.
*****
Whatever happened to the comma that should be between "section" and "where" in this construction? I see this 25 times a night in slot.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2004 8:08 pm 
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Location: Homebush NSW Australia
The commas go because people think a parsing error is a pagination malfunction. Why people think they no longer need to read textbooks is beyond me.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2004 8:54 pm 
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Location: The Herald in Everett, WA
When I'm rimming or slotting, I take out maybe two dozen commas a night in local stories. I keep meaning to e-mail some of them to you....


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2004 9:22 pm 
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Thanks, Jackie. We usually need them. I've been known to message a load of commas to the rim when I really get pissed off about a drought.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2004 11:21 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2004 1:01 am
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Location: N.Y.
Maybe there's another Crescent section that doesn't have as much crime? Or maybe not. That would be the only reason not to use a comma, though.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2004 11:34 pm 
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Location: Homebush NSW Australia
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Jackie:
When I'm rimming or slotting, I take out maybe two dozen commas a night in local stories. I keep meaning to e-mail some of them to you....<hr></blockquote>
I used to. Now I message the offender address of the punctuation guide. The problem ebbs away. It's crucial to get a mandate to use this approach and then to use that mandate with good grace. Best done by a senior bench member..<p>[ April 06, 2004: Message edited by: Paul Wiggins ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2004 11:44 pm 
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I'm a martyr. I just change the shit, keep quiet and stay pissed off about it.<p>The movie of my life will be in the original Aramaic.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 12:41 am 
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Senior people pointing me to the right texts made me more relaxed about what I do.<p>I also want young friends on the reporting desk to go places and good punctuation helps them along the way. <p>Everyone can be a winner in this.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 12:48 am 
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Location: The Herald in Everett, WA
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
I'm a martyr. I just change the shit, keep quiet and stay pissed off about it.
The movie of my life will be in the original Aramaic.
<hr></blockquote><p>Thanks for the much-needed laugh.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 1:43 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
I'm a martyr. I just change the shit, keep quiet and stay pissed off about it.<hr></blockquote><p>I can identify with that (doesn't help the blood pressure any, though). Heck, sometimes it's gotten to the point that I find myself wondering if commas ever existed, or if they're just myths ...<p>Gatekeeper


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 11:00 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2002 12:01 am
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Location: HuskerLand
As I recall, there's a great story about commas from James Thurber. He had written a story for the New Yorker with a line something like, "After dinner, the talk changed to politics." Editor Harold Ross took the comma out. Thurber put it back in, saying, "The comma gives the men time to gather in the library and light their cigars." <p>I love it.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 6:43 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by majorbabs:
As I recall, there's a great story about commas from James Thurber. He had written a story for the New Yorker with a line something like, "After dinner, the talk changed to politics." Editor Harold Ross took the comma out. Thurber put it back in, saying, "The comma gives the men time to gather in the library and light their cigars." <p>I love it.<hr></blockquote> That's wonderful. I knew there was a reason I loved Thurber.<p>Bumf, I believe the missing commas have all been turned into extraneous apostrophes.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 8:25 pm 
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Thank you for solving this mystery. That makes perfect sense.<p>Speaking of that, while out for a ride today I saw a city bus with a destination sign that said:<p>WAL-MART'S<p>I immediately started groaning to my son about how stupid it was, and he was alarmingly unsympathetic. I guess we are the few, the proud who still give a shit.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:58 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by majorbabs:
As I recall, there's a great story about commas from James Thurber. He had written a story for the New Yorker with a line something like, "After dinner, the talk changed to politics." Editor Harold Ross took the comma out. Thurber put it back in, saying, "The comma gives the men time to gather in the library and light their cigars."<hr></blockquote><p>Strange, I just read that story today in a review of Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots & Leaves." (The U.S. edition comes out Monday.) Truss must share the story. This is what the review says:<p>One of the comma heavyweight championship bouts of the 20th century played out between Harold Ross, the legendary editor of The New Yorker, and the equally legendary humorist James Thurber. Ross was a pro-comma kind of guy. Thurber was of the less-is-more school, but since Ross was the editor, he generally had the last word. Thurber was asked by a correspondent why he used a comma in the sentence, "After dinner, the men went into the living-room." Truss writes, "His answer was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. 'This particular comma,' Thurber explained, 'was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.' "<p>Gold star to the person who can track this down.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 10:30 pm 
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Thurber, in a 1955 interview:<p>Ross approached the English sentence as though it was an enemy, something that was going to throw him. He used to fuss for an hour over a comma. He'd call me in for lengthy discussions about the Thurber colon. And as for poetic license, he'd say, "Damn any license to get things wrong." In fact, Ross read so carefully that often he didn't get the sense of your story. I once said: "I wish you'd read my stories for pleasure, Ross." He replied he hadn't time for that.<p>***Almost everything I learn about Ross makes me like him more.***


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 3:31 am 
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Columbia Journalism Review, 1995:<p>... Yet to all appearances Ross remained a shambling backwoodsman. Ben Hecht said that he "looked like a resident of the Ozarks and talked like a saloon brawler." Ross was dirty-fingernailed and "burglar-faced." A cigarette hung from his lips and his hair stood up like a lavatory brush. He sucked cold drinks through a napkin to keep them from hurting his gappy teeth.<p>... Ross nursed primitive notions about race, sex, and art. He disparaged blacks and did not employ them even as messengers. During World War II he started a harangue, "The trouble with you Jews, Hellman . . . ." One of his three wives confessed that she had never seen him naked and he was apt to complain, "Goddamn it, I hate the idea of going around with female hormones in me." He spent much of his time trying to excise double entendres from The New Yorker and the closest he came to formulating an editorial policy (said Wolcott Gibbs) was this admonition to his staff: "Don't fuck the contributors." Ross denounced painting and music as "phony arts." William Shawn, who succeeded as editor on Ross's death in 1951, admitted that the term "literary" was for years "a house pejorative." Ross told his secretary never to leave him alone with poets, whom he proposed to pay by the length of their lines.<p>... The fact is that Ross's general reading hardly extended beyond Fowler's Modern English Usage, a book about eels, and True Detective magazine. Not knowing it was a quotation, he improved Tennyson's famous phrase to "nature red in claw and tooth." Ross had a tenuous grasp of the English language: he always spelled the word prodigal "progidal" and he thought that homosexuals were called "amorphodites."


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 6:24 am 
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"Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of the New Yorker," from which that came, is recommended. The author, Thomas Kunkel, would do well to do more such good work instead of being a journalism "dean."


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 10:13 am 
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Location: HuskerLand
Thanks to the person who correctly related that quote about the comma. I will have to go back to "My Years With Ross" by Thurber and read it again.<p>The only other story I remember is the continuing disagreement he had with Robert Benchley. One believed the correct phrasing was "oblivious to" and the other believed in "oblivious of." Anyone want to weigh in on this?


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the commas gone?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 3:27 pm 
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Location: Saranac Lake, N.Y.
So was it Ross who insisted on the comma? Rats. I liked the first quote better.


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