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Help!

My son has asked me to read through his essay for his grad school application. He keeps using what I think are random commas but I'm trying to make sure I'm not the one who is wrong. I've researched it but want to ask for your opinions, too.

Here's a typical example:

With my academic studies at XX, I aim to gain a strong background in the historical and cultural place of music, and pursue research in music through an interdisciplinary lens.

Here's another one:

This led to an interest in these and similar composers, and to a new understanding of what music could be and how it relates to other fields.

Are the commas after "music" and ""composers" correct? I'm thinking they're not because they separates the subject and verb. He does this ALL through his essay and I'm starting to question myself. 

THANKS!
#1 - November 06, 2014, 07:40 AM
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The commas work for me.

And  :goodluck to your son! His studies sound interesting.

And  :love5 to you for being a caring mom.
#2 - November 06, 2014, 07:46 AM
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Hmmm.

But what's the rule here? Why should there be commas? I'm just trying to figure this out for myself, too.

And thanks! He's actually combining his two degrees - music and physics - to study(according to his resume):  20th and 21st century music with a focus on technology in relation to music, especially music recording and electroacoustic music.

(Frankly, just reading his resume and essay are making me feel very stupid!)
#3 - November 06, 2014, 07:53 AM
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I'm not an English teacher--so I probably shouldn't be answering this.  :-\ But my understanding is that there are required commas, and optional commas. Required ones would include the comma between city and state (Boston, Mass.). Optional commas are those which divide up long sentences into more manageable bites, and are placed where the pause/breath would be if you were speaking the sentence. They often help clarify the meaning of the sentence.

Since your son's sentences are relatively long and complex, I think they read better with the commas.

I'll just hide under here until an actual English teacher shows up.  :hiding
#4 - November 06, 2014, 08:09 AM
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Neither of those commas should be there.  Technically speaking. They break up the flow of his thoughts, and they're definitely not 'required.' Here's one (of many) link to the basic comma rules: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm.

Good luck! :)  (and you might just direct him to the page with the comma rules...especially as the last one mentions: use commas with caution!)
#5 - November 06, 2014, 08:15 AM
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Thank you, Andracill!

Any chance we could change the rules to suit my preferences?  :whistle

 :stuck  (Me, stuck in comma ignorance.)
#6 - November 06, 2014, 08:20 AM
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I go to Lill when I want an authoritative answer to a grammar question. I'm sure she'd know.

I guess my feeling is that he should lose the comma after "music" but can probably keep the others. The first comma separates out an introductory clause--so that's O.K. But he's got the comma after music separating a dependent clause from an independent clause, whereas a comma should only be used if the second clause is independent. (O.K., I'm not 100% sure of this. Anybody else?)

There's a similar situation with the comma after "composers," but somehow that one seems to work for me. You're allowed to put a comma in if there's a natural break in the thought and I felt a natural break there.

Just my opinion. I'm no expert either. (My goodness you have a smart son!)
#7 - November 06, 2014, 08:59 AM
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Neither of those commas is necessary...because he is not combining two complete sentences, each with a subject and a verb. He is simply seeking to separate phrases that begin with different verbs.

IF he had written "....I aim to gain a strong...., and I want to pursue...," then the commas would be needed. In this case, he would be joining two complete sentences with the coordinating conjunction "and."

But because the second part of each sentence (as is) is NOT a complete sentence, the commas are unnecessary. "...and pursue research in music...." is not a complete sentence. It's missing a subject.

Make sense?

#8 - November 06, 2014, 09:33 AM
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I hardly ever come to the boards any more, but my spidey senses were tingling. Ha!

Okay, here's my shot at it:




With my academic studies at XX, I aim to gain a strong background in the historical and cultural place of music, and pursue research in music through an interdisciplinary lens.

 :stuck First comma is correctly placed. Second comma is unnecessary. You do NOT have two complete sentences; you have a compound predicate. Your two verbs are gain and pursue. You do NOT have two independent clauses in the predicate. (An independent clause and a complete sentence are the same thing.) I'd put "to" in front of research.



This led to an interest in these and similar composers, and to a new understanding of what music could be and how it relates to other fields.
 :trenchcoat  No comma. There are NOT two independent clauses.  However, this is an awkwardly constructed sentence to begin with. I'd replace "and to" with "as well as" and keep the comma after composers. I'd also find new wording for "what music could be." Is there a way to say "how music (perfect verb here) and relates to other fields.


COMMA RULE:  Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when you are joining two independent clauses.

Hortensia loves to vacuum the curtains on Sunday mornings, but Reynaldo would rather drink his mimosas in perfect silence. 

See .. two complete sentences. You can also join them with a semi-colon.

Here's where you do NOT need a comma.

Hortensia vacuums the curtains on Sunday morning and washes all her crystal glasses with Listerine on Tuesday.

You do NOT have two complete sentences. You have a compound predicate. Two verbs. Vacuums and washes.

There are a whole lot of comma rules. I suggest going to the OWL Purdue site.
#9 - November 06, 2014, 09:37 AM
« Last Edit: November 06, 2014, 09:40 AM by Lill »
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Jody is correct and more concise. We were typing at the same time.

Here's a link to my go-to grammar place.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/02/
#10 - November 06, 2014, 09:37 AM
« Last Edit: November 06, 2014, 01:38 PM by Lill »
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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Yes, I forgot to mention Jody, my other grammar go-to person. I knew she was busy, so I didn't want to bother her. Jody's also a good person to ask about meter (poetry, not parking).
#11 - November 06, 2014, 09:57 AM
« Last Edit: November 06, 2014, 10:00 AM by Betsy »
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Thanks for your answers and for those links, Robin, Jody, and Lill.   :thankyou 
#12 - November 06, 2014, 10:26 AM
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As a compulsive commater, I think this is a useful thread for myself and many others.
I am not offering advice, just a hearty good wished for Matt as he moves on to the next stage. It seems like yesterday when they first went to college, doesn't it?
#13 - November 06, 2014, 11:43 AM
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Jody is correct. 
#14 - November 06, 2014, 12:29 PM
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The Pocket Style Manual  pages 55 -60.  Some of the bad examples appear to be common usage.
#15 - November 06, 2014, 01:59 PM

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*snort* Betsy
#16 - November 06, 2014, 03:18 PM
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Jody, you rock my socks!
#17 - November 06, 2014, 08:15 PM

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I'm also not an expert, but where are these so-called experts when we really need them?   :help2

I'll split the difference and say that the second sounds fine but the first needs a slight tweak--not in comma usage, but in parallelism.

Quote
With my academic studies at XX, I aim to gain a strong background in the historical and cultural place of music, and pursue research in music through an interdisciplinary lens.

At the core of this sentence is: "I aim to gain and pursue." Which is fine without a comma.

But then we're adding something that would be called an embedded list in the HTML world and probably has another name in the grammar/usage/style world: "I aim to gain [this and that] and pursue [something else]."

Despite not being an expert, this much I know: there's a difference between grammar and style, and between grammar and usage, and probably between style and usage as well (but don't quote me on that).

Grammatically, you're fine with or without the comma. Stylistically, I'd include the comma to reduce the chance that a reader will mistakenly put "pursue" is in a list with "this and that" instead of in a list with "to gain." And when a comma creates separate clauses, usage favors parallel construction, so I'd add a "to" to create parallelism between "to gain" and "to pursue."

"With my academic studies at XX, I aim to gain a strong background in the historical and cultural place of music, and to pursue research in music through an interdisciplinary lens."

Done.

Here's another one:

Quote
This led to an interest in these and similar composers, and to a new understanding of what music could be and how it relates to other fields.

The core is: "This led to an interest and an understanding."  Perfectly fine, and already parallel.

But really it's: "This led to an interest in [these and those] and to an understanding of [this and that]."

Add a comma to eliminate confusion, check for parallel construction because you're turning one clause into two, and voila! "This led to an interest in these and similar composers, and to a new understanding of what music could be and how it relates to other fields."

Now just wait for a real expert to show up and say the exact opposite.  :D
#18 - November 06, 2014, 08:33 PM
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You are right in general that if you use a comma, there must be a complete sentence after the "and." The ones in your examples are a little on the acceptable side because they might be there to reduce confusion since in both cases there is another "and" before the comma. They are okay only if there is a risk that without them the reader might think that whatever comes after the second "and" is another item in a series.  I vote to omit the first and rewrite the second sentence, possible breaking into two, to get rid of one of the ands -- there are a lot in that sentence. If the second sentence stays, I suggest leaving in the comma so the reader doesn't get confused. Basically, what Lill says.

With my academic studies at XX, I aim to gain a strong background in the historical and cultural place of music, and pursue research in music through an interdisciplinary lens.

Here's another one:

This led to an interest in these and similar composers, and to a new understanding of what music could be and how it relates to other fields.
#19 - November 07, 2014, 06:05 AM

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I had suggested the and be replaced with "as well as."  There are too many ands.

Both sentences could be constructed less awkwardly, imho.

Robin, Jodi, and I concur on the use of commas. If I skipped anybody else who explained how commas are used when joining two independent clauses, consider yourself included.


#20 - November 07, 2014, 06:38 AM
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I love Owl English and Grammar Girl: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl. She makes the explanations sound simple. The Chicago Manual of Style has a FAQ that you don't have to pay for: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/topicList.html.

I was an English teacher (ESL), and I'm agreeing with Lill, et al.

#21 - November 10, 2014, 11:46 AM

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