Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER I.

OF THE COMMA. The Comma usually separates those parts of a sen tence, which, though very closely connected in sense and construction, require a pause between them.

RULE I. With respect to a simple sentence, the several words of which it consists have so near a relation to each other, that, in general, no points are requisite, except a full stop at the end of it; as, " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.' 'Every part of matter swarms with living creatures.'

A simple sentence, however, when it is a long one, and the nominative case is accompanied with inseparable adjuncts, may admit of a pause inimediately before the verb : as, “The good taste of the present age, has not allowed us to neglect the cultivation of the English language. "To be totally indifferent to praise or censure, is a real defect in character.'

RULE II. When the connexion of different parts of a simple sentence, is interrupted by an imperfect phrase, a comma is usually introduced before the beginning, and at the end of this phrase : as, 'I remember, with gratitude, his goodness to me ;' His work is, in many respects, very imperfect. It is, therefore, not much approved.' But when these interruptions are slight and unimportant, the comma is better omitted : as, 'Flattery is certainly pernicious : There is surely a pleasure in beneficence.'

In the generality of compound sentences, there is frequent occasion for commas. This will appear from the following rules ; some of which apply to simple, as well as to compound sentences.

[ocr errors]

RULE III. When two or more nouns occur in the same construction, they are parted by a comma : as, Reason, virtue, answer one great aim :' "The husband, wife and children, suffered extremely :)* "They took away their furniture, clothes, and stock in trade :' He is alternately supported by his father, his uncle, and his elder brother.'

From this rule there is mostly an exception, with regard to two nouns closely connected by a conjunction : as, * Virtue and vice form a strong contrast to each other :'

Libertines call religion bigotry or superstition: There is a natural difference between merit and demerit, virtue and vice, wisdom and folly.' But if the parts connected are not short, a comma may be inserted, though the conjunction is expressed : as, 'Romances inay be said to be miserable rhapsodies, or dangerous incentives to evil ;' ' Intemperance destroys the strength of our bodies, and the vigor of our minds.'

RULE IV. Two or more adjectives belonging to the same substantive, are likewise separated by commas : as, ' Plain, honest truth, wants no artificial covering :' David was a brave, wise, and pious man ;' A woman, gentle, sensible, well-educated, and religious ;' « The most innocent pleasures are the sweetest, the most rational, the most affecting, and the most lasting.'

But two adjectives, immediately connected by a conjunction, are not separated by a comma: as, “True worth is modest and retired ;' Truth is fair and artless, simple and sincere, uniform and consistent.' We must be wise or foolish ; there is no medium.?.

* As a considerable pause in pronunciation is necessary between the last noun and the verb, a comm should be inserted to denote it. But as no pause is allowable between the last adjective and the noun, under Rule IV. the comma is there properly omitted. See Walker's Elements of Elocution.

RULE V. Two or more verbs, having the same nominative case, and immediately following one another, are also separated by commas : as, Virtue supports in adversity, moderates in prosperity :''In a letter, we may advise, exhort, comfort, request, and discuss.'

Two verbs immediately connected by a conjunction, are an exception to the above rule : as, "The study of natural history expands and elevates the mind ;) Whether we eat or drink, labor or sleep, we should be moderate.

Two or more participles are subject to a similar rule, and exception : as, 'A man, fearing, serving, and loving, his Creator :' He was happy in being loved, esteemed, and respected ;''By being admired and flattered, we are often corrupted.'

RULE VI. Two or more adverbs immediately succeeding one another, must be separated by commas : as, We are fearfully, wonderfully framed;' Success generally depends on acting prudently, steadily, and vigorously, in what we undertake.'

But when two adverbs are joined by a conjunction, they are not parted by the comma : as, Some men siri deliberately and presumptuously ;' "There is no middle state ; we must live virtuously or viciously.'

RULE VII. When participles are followed by something that depends on them, they are generally separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma : as, ' The king, approving the plan, put it in execution ;' His talents, formed for great enterprises, could not fail of rendering him conspicuous ;'' All mankind compose one family, assembled under the eye of one common Father.'

RULE VIII. When a conjunction is divided by a phrase or sentence from the verb to which it belongs, such intervening

phrase has usually a comma at each extremity : as, • They set out early, and, before the close of the day, arrived at the destined place.'

RULE IX. Expressions in a direct address, are separated from the rest of the sentence by commas : as, My son, give me thy heart ;' 'I am obliged to you, my friends, for your many favors.'

RULE X. The case or nominative absolute, and the infinitive mode absolute, are separated by commas from the body of the sentence : as, His father dying, he succeeded to the estate ;' 'At length, their ministry performed, and race well run, they left the world in peace;' "To confess the truth, I was much in fault.'

RULE XI. Nouns in apposition, that is, nouns added to otber nouns in the same case, by way of explication or illustration, when accompained with adjuncts, are set off by commas : as, Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, was eminent for his zeal and knowledge ;' «The butterfly, child of the summer, flutters in the sun.'

But if such nouns are single, or only form a proper name, they are not divided : as, “Paul the apostle ;' * The emperor Antoninus wrote an excellent book.'

RULE XII. Simple members of sentences connected by comparatives, are, for the most part, distinguished by a comma : as, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so doth my soul pant after thee;' Better is a dinner of herbs with love, than a stalled ox and hatred with it.'

If the members in comparative sentences are short, the comma is, in general, better omitted. as, 'How much better is it to get wisdom than gold !! "Mankind act oftener from caprice than reason.'

RULE XIII. When words are placed in opposition to each other, or with some marked variety, they require to be distinguished by a comma : as,

• Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;

Strong, without rage; without o'ertlowing, full.' Good men, in this frail, imperfect state, are often found, not only in union with, but in opposition to, the views and conduct of one another.' · Sometimes, when the word with which the last preposition agrees, is single, it is better to omit the commå before it : as, Many states were in alliance with, and under the protection of Ronie.'

The same rule and restriction must be applied, when two or more nouns refer to the same preposition: as, “He was composed, both under the threatening, and at the approach, of a cruel and lingering death ;' He was not only the king, but the father of his people.'

RULE XIV. A remarkable expression, or a short observation, somewhat in manner of a quotation, may be properly marked with a comma : as, “It hurts a man's pride to say, I do not know ;' * Plutarch calls lying, the vice of slaves.'

RULE XV. Relative pronouns are connective words, and generally admit a comma before them : as, 'He preaches sublimely, who lives a sober, righteous, and pious life ;' “ There is no charın in the female sex, which can supply the place of virtue.'

But when two members, or phrases, are closely connected by a relative, restraining the general notion of the antecedent to a particular sense, the comma should be omitted : as, “ Self-denial is the sacrifice which virtue must make ;' « A man who is of a detracting spirit, will misconstrue the most innocent words that can be put together.'. In the latter example, the assertion is not of a man in general,' but of a man who is of a

« PreviousContinue »