I know its not six-ten dollar installments
November 11, 2005 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Which is correct? "six ten-dollar installments" or "six ten dollar installments" or "six $10.00 installments" Or something else? Please give citations of grammar books, rules, etc along with your answer.

Context is a formal thank you letter to donors.
posted by anastasiav to Grab Bag (62 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Maybe "six $10 installments?" (via a random AP style guide-lette I had bookmarked...which says "Don't use extra zeros with sums of money: $6 not $6.00")
posted by tpl1212 at 1:09 PM on November 11, 2005


The first and third are equally good, I think.

It's a case of an adjective being formed by two words, so a hyphen is necessary if it's spelled out. The Economist's style guide and Wikipedia agree.

The third would also be acceptable, but you don't need a rule to prove it, since it's just three words, even though the middle one is in currency form.

The second one is clearly wrong, as it's potentially confusing without the hyphen explicitly grouping "ten" and "dollar" together.

Of course, you could rewrite it as "six installments of $10.00" or "six installments of ten dollars," and it would probably be even clearer.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:14 PM on November 11, 2005


As a journalist, I would say "six installments of $10 each." Each is a little repetitive there, but I think it makes things clearer. I would actually replace "installments" with "payments," but your choice. I have no cites, but I agree with tpl1212, we never give cents when it's just .00.
posted by GaelFC at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2005


Newspaper style would be "Six installments of $10" or "Six installments of $10 each" (Or: "Six installments of just $10," if you want to sound a bit like an infomercial. Though I'd favor "payments" or "donations" over "installments"—installment payments are for, like, department stores and lay-away.)

(Rules: Spell out numbers under ten, write numbers over ten as numerals, separate possibly confusing grouped numbers wherever possible, and the aforementioned AP style. I'd cite but like... that's just what we do.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2005


(Ha! Jinx.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2005


I don't have a reference handy, but my CP Stylebook, Little, Brown Handbook and other refs typically say spell out words to nine, use the number for 10 and above. So "six $10 installments" or "six 10-dollar" installments.
posted by acoutu at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2005


Out of the first two, the hyphenated form is definitely better, because it clearly indicated that 'ten-dollar' is a compound word, modifying the word 'installments'. (*, under 'Numerical expresions, item 2)

Writing it in numerals is also okay, although style guides normally suggest that simple numbers below about twelve should be written out in words. (*)

If you're going to write a whole-dollar amount in figures, miss off the '.00'. (*)

However, I personally think that "six installments of $10 each" or "six installments of ten dollars each" would be a clearer way of phrasing it.
posted by chrismear at 1:23 PM on November 11, 2005


Copywriter weighing in to agree that the "10" should be in numerals, as acoutu has said. And you generally don't want to mix numerals and words, which would be necessary in "six 10-dollar installments," so you'd need "six $10 installments" if you were to phrase it that way.
posted by occhiblu at 1:36 PM on November 11, 2005


According to the Chicago Manual of Style (chapter nine, esp. 9.23), it can be either "six ten-dollar" or "six $10," depending on context. In nontechnical works where there is no larger dollar amount around this (ie, no nonround number over one hundred that must be in figures), then you should spell it out, and go with the first version.

Chicago differs from newspaper style in its treatment of numbers, and since it's what I use for the books I work on, it is what I prefer.
posted by dame at 1:50 PM on November 11, 2005


I'd be really old fashioned and say "six, ten-dollar installments." Assuming you don't want to rewrite, as the rewrites suggested seem a bit better.
posted by teece at 1:55 PM on November 11, 2005


Teece, why would you put a comma between six and ten? I've never seen that usage and am having trouble imagining it as grammatical.
posted by jdroth at 2:04 PM on November 11, 2005


Because it separates the two numbers to avoid confusion, and there is very little that is grammatical about commas. Rather, they are stylistic and used to avoid confusion and clarify. Which seems like a perfect use here.

Indeed, when I say something like "6, $10 installments" I pause after the "6" just slightly, so as not to run it into the ten. So a comma seems perfect, as it often signals a small pause.
posted by teece at 2:16 PM on November 11, 2005


I don't have a cite because I misplaced my Strunk and White (if they would even agree). But I can tell you my personal preference, which is unequivocally "six ten-dollar installments" (assuming we're using this word-order and not the ones suggested by others).

Why? Without the hyphen it's unclear, so that rules that out. As for the 10 vs. ten debate, I don't think there's really a "right" way unless we want to get pedantic about it. (Although an alternative to the "write out one to nine, not 10 or above" theory is the "one word numbers get written out"; I have been told this several times.)

But the thing is, you're not writing this for an English composition, you're not writing this for a newspaper editor, you're writing it to represent your thanks to your donors. Since it's formal, I'd stay away from numerals, especially for a one-word number. If you had "Thanks for your $1500 donation", then numerals would be fine, in my book, but as it is, if I were to receive this letter, I would view ten as more formal than 10.
posted by SuperNova at 2:23 PM on November 11, 2005


As a copyeditor, I have to say that teece's comma explanation makes me want to cry. Like everything else, a comma has a purpose. In this case, the purpose of clarity is being seved by the hyphen and the comma is superfluous.
posted by dame at 2:23 PM on November 11, 2005


Heh, teece, "extra" commas like that seriously grate on me when I'm reading. But you are correct about the pause. Carry on... and I'll just try to pretend they're not there.
posted by SuperNova at 2:24 PM on November 11, 2005


I'd call them ten-dollar installments. The rule I was taught is that you use the hyphen for adjectives when the words can't be used alone as adjectives. e.g. "six installments" works but "ten installments" and "dollar installments" are not correct, so it's "six ten-dollar installments."

Though the more common style these days seems to be to do without the hyphen. I'd say the most important thing is not which style you choose but to make sure you use the same style for all adjectives throughout the document.
posted by winston at 2:25 PM on November 11, 2005


A comma is not for a pause. If it is important to you that a pause exist and it is not clear as the sentence is written, re-write the sentence.
posted by dame at 2:28 PM on November 11, 2005


Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition:

7.90 [...] number, spelled out, + noun: a hundred-meter race [...]

9.3 Chicago's general rule. In nontechnical contexts, the following are spelled out: whole numbers from one through one hundred, round numbers, and any number beginning a sentence. For other numbers, numerals are used.

9.24 U.S. currency. If a number expressing an amount of money is spelled out, so are the words dollar(s) or cent(s); if numerals are used, they are accompanied by the symbol $ or ¢.
posted by languagehat at 2:29 PM on November 11, 2005


Oh, and teece, please don't talk about commas. You don't know how to use them.
posted by languagehat at 2:31 PM on November 11, 2005


languagehat: get over yourself.

Commas are a matter of preference to a significant degree. I've seen them used "incorrectly" in 19th century writers I love.

Unless some outside influence makes you conform to a strict standard (eg, your editor), it's generally silly to obsess over them. If you are any bit of a decent writer, you'll get them right.
posted by teece at 2:35 PM on November 11, 2005


Teece, thank you for explaining your comma use. It means i can tell you: you're wrong. Commas do serve a grammatical purpose, and placing one between six and ten confuses the meaning in this case rather than clarifying it.

I have a strong opinion about the whole "writing numbers out" thing, and so I decided to look up the guidelines in some of my grammar books. Here's what I found:
  • According to Hodges' Harbrace College Handbook (6th ed.): "Although usage varies, writers tend to spell out numbers that require only one or two words; they regularly use figures for other numbers." Or, put another way, write out numbers like two-thirds, thirty-four, four million, or ninety. (The book notes exceptions, but they do not apply to the question at hand.)
  • Warriner's English Grammar and Composition (Franklin Edition) states: "Numbers of more than two words should be written in numerals."
  • The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual is rather vague on the whole issue, re-directing the reader to various subsections. The monetary units subsection says: "Use figures and the $ sign in all except casual references or amounts without a figure." So, in this case, $10 would be correct. Note, however, that newspaper rules differ slightly from other grammar rules. Newspaper copy is sometimes — as in this case — made more compact in an attempt to save space.
  • The Gregg Reference Manual (fifth edition) has an entire chapter (eighteen pages!) on numbers. It notes: "The rules for expressing numbers would be quite simple if writers would all agree to express numbers entirely in figures or entirely in words. But in actual practice the exclusive use of figures is considered appropriate only in tables and statistical matter, whereas the exclusive use of words to express numbers is found only in ultraformal documents (such as proclamation and social invitations). In writing that is neither ultraformal nor ultratechnical, most style manuals call for the use of both figures and words in varying proportions. Although authorities do not agree on details, there are two sets of basic rules in wide use: the figure style (which uses figures for most numbers above 10) and the word style (which uses figures for most numbers above 100)." However, all of that is irrelevant because regarding money, Gregg says "use figures to express exact or approximate amounts of money".
  • About this topic, The HarperCollins Concise Handbook for Writers also advocates two different styles. For pieces with few numbers, it recommends writing them out. For pieces with large numbers, it recommends using numerals for all figures above ten. However, as with the books above, this one also suggests one use numerals when dealing with monetary units.
  • Good ol' Strunk & White says that except when they occur in dialogue, "do not spell out dates or other serial numbers." But that's it. It doesn't specifically address your dilemma, nor does it address monetary units.
I have other books, but I doubt they're going to say anything different. The consensus seems to be: write out numbers from one to ten, but always use numbers for monetary figures. For non-monetary numbers above ten, it's a judgment call: some people (such as myself) prefer them written out, others prefer to represent them with numerals.

For anastasiav's purposes, there seem to be only two good choices: "six $10 installments" or "six ten-dollar installments". Because of the context — a formal thank-you letter — and because of my own personal style, I would elect to use "six ten-dollar installments".
posted by jdroth at 2:39 PM on November 11, 2005


Commas do serve a grammatical purpose

Wow, I wonder how we can talk then, without commas?

No, commas serve a helpful purpose to illustrate an already existent grammar. They in NO WAY provide a part of the grammar. The grammar of the written word exists completely separate from the syntactic sugar that is a comma.

Sure, without their semi-consistent use the complex structures of written language would be harder to manage, but that still does not promote commas to an element of the grammar.
posted by teece at 2:46 PM on November 11, 2005


Teece's other comma usage on this site seems acceptable. I have to assume the whole "six, ten" thing is an aberration.)
posted by jdroth at 2:47 PM on November 11, 2005


I, guess that we can, just use commas whenver the mood strike, us yes? We can leave them out in lists numbers dates even long compound dates parenthetical expressions such as this one which will extend on-and-on twisting turning almost Proust-like. In fact I cannot imagine reading, Proust if he were not able to, use, commas, and, life, without Proust would be, well, not worth living to be quite honest.

Teece, there are many uses for commas that are, indeed, subjective. Some people, including Strunk and White, lean toward prose with light comma usage. Others, such as myself, tent to use more commas than we ought. However, there are some instances in which commas are imperative. They do represent an important part of English grammar. They are not optional are to be used as the whim strikes.

Just as there are instances in which commas must be used for clarity, there are instances when their presence actually clouds communication, instances in which the use of a comma is assuredly wrong. "You may pay in six, ten-dollar installments" is certainly one of these instances. You've left that poor little six lost in the wilderness, and the reader is lost as well.
posted by jdroth at 2:54 PM on November 11, 2005


Though I seem to be quite dogmatic about commas today, I'm apparently not as dogmatic about proofreading, which is a shame, really, when one is arguing about grammar.
posted by jdroth at 2:56 PM on November 11, 2005


Wow, I wonder how we can talk then, without commas?

You don't talk with commas. You write with them. You're wrong. That's fine. You're making yourself look more and more stupid the more you go on about it. That's fine by me, but probably not to you.

Move on.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:02 PM on November 11, 2005


I shouldn't derail this any further (damn my weird comma placement!), but let me say that you don't seem to be using the word "grammar" in the sense that I am, jdroth. In the purely linguistic sense that I am thinking, I assure you that commas are not a part of the grammar (as in the morphology, syntax, semantics, phonology, etc...). But perhaps you are thinking of grammar as "generally correct written usage" or something. In that case, sure, they are part of the grammar. But that is not how I was using the term.

Indeed, even with radical misuse of commas, the underlying grammar is often still discernible (even though it can be very annoying reading, to the point of seriously impeding communication). That is at the heart of why there is more leeway with commas.

"fire car lit" is obviously ungrammatical compared to "I lit the car on fire". "six, ten-dollar installments", not so much. No matter what you, dame, and languagehat want to think. I mean really, from the linguistic sense of grammar, that phrase can not be ungrammatical from comma usage alone -- the commas aren't in the grammar. Which is not to say they're not important, but they will always be matters of style, not grammar.

And the "six" doesn't seem lost to me, nor does the sentence seem confusing to me. Go figure. Sure, maybe every single style manual recommends against my style -- but it is still just style.
posted by teece at 3:14 PM on November 11, 2005


Commas aren't a part of grammar in the same sense as parenthesis aren't part of mathematics. Hey do you count with parenthesis???
posted by signal at 4:27 PM on November 11, 2005


let me say that you don't seem to be using the word "grammar" in the sense that I am, jdroth

Agreed. Commas are punctuation. I should have used "effective communication" or something.
posted by jdroth at 4:43 PM on November 11, 2005


I agree, with teece.
posted by stirfry at 4:45 PM on November 11, 2005


Teece, how about this, then:

The schoolboard decided to cancel all the books, which included racist terminology.

The schoolboard decided to cancel all the books which included racist terminology.

Clearly, there is a grammatical and meaningful implication of the comma. If there weren't, both sentences would have the same meaning, which they do not.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:22 PM on November 11, 2005


Actually, those examples would be a little clearer without the "all," sorry, I was quoting from memory.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:25 PM on November 11, 2005


that phrase can not be ungrammatical from comma usage alone -- the commas aren't in the grammar

It's not ungrammatical, it's just plain wrong. There is no standard of English punctuation under which "6, $10 installments" or "six, ten-dollar installments" is correct usage, and aside from formal standards, it's actively misleading. And when you find yourself addressing people as "jerk" over commas, it's probably best to back away from the keyboard and go look at the sky for a while.
posted by languagehat at 5:42 PM on November 11, 2005


Since a comma can be used to signify "and" or "or," I think one risk of writing "six, $10 installments" would be incorrect interpretations of meaning. The dollar symbol should guide the reader here, but you could read that writing as "six- (or) ten-dollar installments," or as "six- (and) $10-dollar installments."

I think William H. Gass wrote an essay on the word "and" that touched on this use of the comma, though googling for "and" doesn't help much.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:26 PM on November 11, 2005


(oops, I meant "six (and) ten-dollar installments.")
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:27 PM on November 11, 2005


Style guides will vary. It is the "style" preference of the publication that dictates which is used. This is simply to provide consistency within a publication.
"Six ten-dollar" and "Six $10" are both grammatically correct. In the former you need the hyphen for clarity. I am a copy editor who has worked in the field for 15 years. The Associated Press Style Guide and Chicago Manual of Style are the two biggies in journalism.
posted by smartypanties at 9:14 PM on November 11, 2005


languagehat:

It's not ungrammatical, it's just plain wrong.

That's such a cute trick. Care to explain this sage wisdom?

There is no standard of English punctuation under which "6, $10 installments" or "six, ten-dollar installments" is correct usage, and aside from formal standards, it's actively misleading.

Sure there is such a standard: mine. This is a matter of style, which is something I doubt if you will ever understand. Too bad for you. Have fun feeling that you actually know what "correct" with respect to such minor comma placement issues means. You're kidding yourself. What you're really saying is you know it's "incorrect" to wear white after Labor Day. Bully for you. Even if my style is completely singular, that does not make it wrong, especially for such a minor issue that I doubt would seriously confuse anyone. It would annoy the usage police that tsk-tsk in their head as they read something.

Language is actually much more interesting when you look at it for what it actually is (consensus), rather than a set of rules handed to you by some "authority." Particularly with something like commas, which only serve an ancillary purpose, not a primary one.

I'm actually quite happy to find out that the way I would have written this so offensive to some people. I'll remember if I ever have to write such a construct. I'll keep in mind that it misleads some of you. Perhaps because I'm a poet, I'm used to punctuating this way, I dunno. I dunno if I've ever even used this construct, but it seems the most natural to me.

But the bullshit in this thread telling me I'm making people cry, that I don't know anything about how to use commas, and that I'm stupid is a bit much. Further, it's just damn childish. I also tire of copy editors and their view of the language, but that's neither here nor there.

And when you find yourself addressing people as "jerk" over commas, it's probably best to back away from the keyboard and go look at the sky for a while.

Please read a little better. I felt solid-one-love was a jerk because he called me stupid about a disagreement over where to put a comma. And I still think he or she is a jerk. Sure, I could have avoided saying it, but being called "stupid" pushes my button. Particularly when the poster seems completely ignorant of the reasoning behind my viewpoint.
posted by teece at 9:47 PM on November 11, 2005


While I disagree about commas getting thrown in to separate possibly confusing words, I must say that I have seen that convention used fairly often in slightly old British lit (never in American lit, however). So it may not be as far out as it appears.

Which doesn't make it appropriate for a formal letter in present-day America, however.
posted by occhiblu at 10:19 PM on November 11, 2005


The original question's context is a formal letter, and citations were requested, so responses such as dame's seem correct and appropriate.

Teece's preference of "six, ten-dollar installments" strikes me as a parenthetical phrase more suited to literary prose.

Also, if you sing it as you would "five, golden rings" in The Twelve Days of Christmas, I suppose it sounds fine. But in a thank you letter, it just doesn't have a good ring.
posted by F Mackenzie at 10:28 PM on November 11, 2005


Re Teace's remark: "I also tire of copy editors and their view of the language, but that's neither here nor there."
Wha? I edit copy and I personally stated that simply so it would be clear to the person posing the question that that's where my viewpoint was coming from. Copy editors do serve a purpose, but by no means do I consider a copy editor's view the only one. Why take such a stab at an entire occupation, Teace?
posted by smartypanties at 11:49 PM on November 11, 2005


Reflexively, I would use Teece's preferred method: six, ten dollar [or $10]" items. It's what I was taught; it's something I've absorbed from some book, somewhere in my youth.

Everything in this thread, short of the first few answers which actually target the question at hand, is irrelevant. Booting commas out from the Grammatical Pantheon, looking at the sky, everything. So if I may follow suit, I'd like to pretend my own style is The One True English Usage:

jdroth: For someone with such an exhaustively cited grasp of the language, I'd have expected you to know that referring to yourself as "myself" doesn't add any further weight or credibility to your argument. Next time, consider "I" or "me" -- words you may consider reserved for us linguistic commoners, but which are nevertheless suitable to reference even the grammatical gods themselves.

...But, since I'm an grammatical atheist, I refuse to believe that proper usage was ever handed down from on high, or even that such a thing, itself, exists. Go ahead and reserve for yourself whichever reflexive pronoun you'd like; I'm more than willing to recognize your right to linguistic style. If everyone on this thread would do the same, it would have ended hours ago and Languagehat could, I don't know, take up astronomy or something.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 11:49 PM on November 11, 2005


I mean "Teece."
Yes, we make mistakes, too. Esp. at 2:50 a.m.
posted by smartypanties at 11:51 PM on November 11, 2005


Sorry, not meant as a stab at copy editors, smartypanties (a cool nic, btw). It was just a literal statement of fact. I don't have any problem with the job -- the world needs copy editors. Neither is it that I tire of what they provide, in the form of great knowledge of prevailing style in their genre. But rather, a certain rigid view of language, which is on display here by several copy editors. Sure, not all copy editors think that way, so I should have used a better term, but I'm not sure what it would be. The stylistic equivalent of a prescriptive grammarian. And it's not even that said editors think I'm wrong -- it's the arrogant way in which they go about telling me I'm wrong that wears me out.

I do think it is really cool to see all the links to style manuals and what not posted so quickly. I don't think it's cool to see the off-hand idea I threw in greeted with such silly pronouncements of my absolute wrongheadedness (which I'm really pretty sure is not without fellow practitioners, even if it is abhorrent to the board's editors -- I probably get it from spending a lot of time read old prose and verse). It IS style, at the end of the day, and it seems some of the copy editors on this page have lost sight of that. I think avocado green bathrooms are bad style -- it would be silly to jump all over someone that liked them as being dead wrong.

And of course it's nothing personal -- I'm sure I could be great friends with a prescriptivist (*wink*)-- it's just that their views tire me out in these on-line discussions. I should go stare at the sky, as languagehat suggests. But electric_counterpoint is right, I derailed the thread, for which I'm sorry.
posted by teece at 12:38 AM on November 12, 2005


ah well. it made the thread look very popular.
posted by smartypanties at 5:46 AM on November 12, 2005


How many people have to tell Teece that his/her comma usage IS actually just wrong before he/she actually believes it? It's frustrating just reading all these posts by Teece insisting that there's this whole other usage of the comma that is somehow correct just because it's Teece's own personal standard/style/whatever. The question brought up by this argument is not whether or not Teece accepts this as a standard, but whether it is more generally accepted in the english language, and the general concensus seems to be "no".

Sure, on some level comma placement is personal choice, and there is a bit of fluidity with regards to whether a comma necessarily needs to go in xyz space. But "six, ten dollar installments" is just not grammatically sound. Like it or not, grammar IS a bit prescriptive, if there weren't rules no one would ever understand the intended nuance of a statement. And the argument about reading similar structures in old text doesn't really hold up, it's a living language and what was understandable several hundred years ago doesn't necessarily make sense these days. Sure, this means that if enough people seem to generally accept this structure then it could become grammatically correct again, but it seems that at this point in time Teece is in the minority.

I guess rather than being a pause after "six", I hear a sort of joining together of "ten" and "dollar", which infers a hyphen. When this is vocalised, because "ten" and "dollar" are pushed up against each other, it may sound like there is a kind of pause after "six"?
posted by ancamp at 6:08 AM on November 12, 2005


For someone with such an exhaustively cited grasp of the language, I'd have expected you to know that referring to yourself as "myself" doesn't add any further weight or credibility to your argument.

Huh. See, you can learn something new every day.

I never claimed to be any sort of grammar god. I just happen to like the subject. I write often, and, I'd like to believe, well. However, that doesn't make me any sort of all-knowing, all-powerful speller or punctuator or anything else. Some aspects of usage are much clearer to me than others. For example, I've never encountered complaints regarding 'myself' before, yet the same grammar books I cited above indicate that my usage is, at best, informal. It's a construction I use often (obviously), and now I'll have to learn to reformulate it. Drat!

I regret having been snotty to teece; personal attacks ought ot be avoided in places like AskMe. However, the fact remains that I've been unable to locate in support for the "six, ten" usage, and it still hurts my brain trying to imagine how that would make for clear communication. I am most assuredly not a prescriptivist. While I do think grammar rules exist to allow for effective communication, I also think that one should view them only as guidelines, bending them and stretching them as the situation dictates. But, again, "six, ten" just doesn't seem to be one of those situations. I would love to see some sort of citation from the "six, ten" camp that either shows this in prominent usage by a major writer, or that declares it acceptable grammatically.

Again: sorry for being snotty, learned something new with the whole 'myself' thing, hardly a prescriptivist, and does anyone have a citation for "six, ten".
posted by jdroth at 6:35 AM on November 12, 2005


I believe there's no need for a pause after six, which is how this comma is being used. Commas also act as "ands", which isn't the needed here. A comma could be used for clarity if that's the only solution for separating the six and the ten, but it's not. "Six $10" and "six ten-dollar" are clear. This is only from my dealings with the language. I have no ref handy.
posted by smartypanties at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2005


Even if my style is completely singular, that does not make it wrong

It does if your goal is communication with other people.

If not, have a blast.
posted by kindall at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2005


The first and third are correct.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 9:38 AM on November 12, 2005


How about "Six installments of $10.00 each"
posted by jonah at 10:29 AM on November 12, 2005


I often use 'of' when making purchase orders. It sounds like crap, but I avoid any misunderstandings (which can get expensive). For example:

6 of $10 installments
15 of 8" long lengths
9 of model 85673
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2005


For the record, jdroth was not snotty.
posted by teece at 10:36 AM on November 12, 2005


(obviously not appropriate for a thankyou letter, I'm just adding some examples. I much prefer the "six installments of $10 each" route. )
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:37 AM on November 12, 2005


I'm so far from being a prescriptivist that I'm amused at the very thought that you've mistaken me for one (see here, here (and followup at the end of this thread), or here (and I particularly recommend the Bruce Byfield link in that last one). I enjoy all levels of language use, from the most mandarin (Nabokov, James) to the extremely colloquial. I am not accusing you of breaking some kind of artificial rule dreamed up by the Strunk-White Cabal; I'm telling you you are using commas in a way that nobody else does and that will impede communication with others if you try to do so on a regular basis. Furthermore, the question was "Which is correct?" (calling for style-manual answers), not "Which would give most pleasure to teece's antinomian soul?" Capeesh?
posted by languagehat at 11:53 AM on November 12, 2005


)
[insert after "last one" above]
posted by languagehat at 11:54 AM on November 12, 2005


fowler on punctuation.

not because it will decide anything, but because it just made me laugh.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:10 PM on November 12, 2005


I'm telling you you are using commas in a way that nobody else does and that will impede communication with others if you try to do so on a regular basis.

Well, languagehat, I'm telling you that this statement is empty nonsense. The difference is I don't hold to my belief that you are wrong with a religious conviction, as you seem to. I understand your reasoning. I disagree with it. I don't denigrate what seems to be the prevailing style on this, nor do I feel the need to insult those that differ with me on this. That's the cool thing about matters of style (which I assure you this is): we each get to choose our own style. This is why editors tire me out sometimes: your dogged belief that you have "the answer" when it comes to something so obviously subjective as this. If my style is over-comma'ed in this single instance, as most here seem to think, you know what? I absolutely guarantee you you won't have a hard time understanding me. The idea that I'm thwarting communication is a complete canard.

But I agree with you that anastasiav should not use my construct, as it will make donors cry and think he/she is a comma idiot, apparently. That's hunky dory. What's odd is how threatening some people find a difference of style over a comma placement. Never mind that that is an utterly childish way to view this, it is the view. It's good to know.

And if you really thinks comma placement isn't largely (but not completely) a matter of style, well, methinks you need to spend a little more time thinking about what role punctuation actually plays in written communication. There is most definitely room for disagreement on such things: if you don't see that, you are a punctuation prescriptivist, no matter what you want to believe.
posted by teece at 12:52 PM on November 12, 2005


And if you really thinks comma placement isn't largely (but not completely) a matter of style, well, methinks you need to spend a little more time thinking about what role punctuation actually plays in written communication.

Punctuation serves to clarify. Your commas do not. But I'm glad you can come up with so many words defending your ludicrous notions. It's rather charming, really. It's also why I hate poets and descriptivists. Just because it withers your free soul to think that language has rules doesn't mean language has no rules.

And, teece, dude, I am not really crying.
posted by dame at 1:53 PM on November 12, 2005


It's also why I hate poets and descriptivists.

*cries*
posted by languagehat at 2:06 PM on November 12, 2005


I felt solid-one-love was a jerk because he called me stupid about a disagreement over where to put a comma.

Because you are stupid. And ignorant. People have tried to educate you, and you have gone off like a child on a temper tantrum. You're wrong. You're not merely wrong, but you're an asshole who should be shunned, by virtue of your attitude. The "anti-expert" attitude which is permeating the Western world these days is egregious and dangerous. We see it in those who rail against teaching evolution. We see it in the political realm where if the science is inconvenient it is ignored. And we're seeing it with you.

You are ignorant, and you are prescribing your ignorance as a perfectly valid interpretation. It is not. The question was "Which is correct?" Your answer was not.

Shut the fuck up.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:12 PM on November 12, 2005


People have tried to educate you, and you have gone off like a child on a temper tantrum.

*claps*

I think what has been lost sight of is the fact that this post was about a *formal letter*, and because of this, no creative punctuation need ever be made. When you, teece, are writing your odes to your own brilliance and flair and style, you can use whatever punctuation you like, but in order to communicate clearly with english speakers in a formal setting, stick to the rules or you'll look like an idiot (hey, you're doing that here anyway).
posted by ancamp at 3:09 PM on November 12, 2005


Correctness and style are two different things. A comma is not really a choice of style, it's just iincorrect.
posted by smartypanties at 10:12 PM on November 12, 2005


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