General Writing and Grammar Help/Time and Commas

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QUESTION: Normally a comma would separate two complete sentences. (i.e. This morning, she made a cake, and she got the mail.) In the sentence below, am I correct to leave out the comma after a.m.?  I've saw it like that in the Chicago Manual of Style.  

If I have plans to meet you at 8 a.m. I'll jump out of bed like a Jack-in-the-box.

Thanks

ANSWER: (1) No; and (2) we can simplify your "cake" example.  Let's start with that.

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(2) This morning, she made a cake, and she got the mail.

Although this is a short-ish sentence, it is difficult to read because of all the commas.  We can eliminate one:  the one that sets off =this morning=.  This is because it's necessary to have the comma between the two sentences (along with the conjunction).  Commas setting off introductory phrases or clauses may be eliminated in interest of clarity.

This morning [remove comma] she made a cake, and she got the mail.

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Now let's consider this sentence, which has an opening clause.

Although she made her way carefully through a fog so dense and ominous that she shivered more with every step she made herself laugh.

I am sorry for that prose.  It is horrendous, though not as bad as =it was a dark and stormy night=!

The opening clause is very long and thus needs a comma before the main clause (=she made herself laugh=) to help the reader plod through this tortuous disaster and make sense of it.

Although she made her way carefully through a fog so dense and ominous that she shivered more with every step, she made herself laugh.

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What if we add another sentence?  This will make the construction like your "cake sentence."

Although she made her way carefully through a fog so dense and ominous that she shivered more with every step, she made herself laugh, and she raised her chin.

The rule says a comma must be used with the conjunction (=she made herself laugh, and she raised her chin=).  Because the opening clause is SOOOO long, we need the comma after it in order to understand the sentence more readily.

Although she made her way carefully through the a fog so dense and ominous that she shivered more with every step, she made herself laugh and she raised her chin.

~~

Now suppose one or both of the sentences are long, in addition to the opening clause?

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At this point, I must stop and teach a lesson.  Sorry.  So I'll come back and finish this for you!  Look for notification of a "revised" answer. The plot thickens!!
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~~

Although she made her way carefully through a fog so dense and ominous that she shivered more with every step, she made herself laugh as she did during a Punch and Judy performance at her first elementary school, and she raised her chin so high that the hairs on it wafted in the moist and loam-scented breeze that whispered around her.

Are you ready to shoot me?!

Obviously, this is writing at its nadir, as well as confusion at its pinnacle!

Same problem with the three commas, as above.  The solution here is to cut this writhing mess into at least two sentences, the first of which will flaunt the introductory clause.

Although she made her way carefully through a fog so dense and ominous that she shivered more with every step, she made herself laugh as she did during a Punch and Judy performance at her first elementary school.  She raised her chin so high that the hairs on it wafted in the moist and loam-scented breeze that whispered around her.  

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Better yet would be to divide it into three sentences.  I won't test your patience by illustrating this!

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(1) You said that CMS said such a construction was ok, but it really isn't. An introductory clause followed by the main clause is too much for the eye to take in with a comma.  I would not recommend you leave it out, as your example illustrates!
mb





---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for all of your  examples! I want to be sure I understand your angle regarding the sentence below.  Are you saying it's okay not to put a comma after "laugh?"  I've often thought of this situation because if you place a comma after laugh, then "she made herself laugh" could appear as if it's a non-restrictive clause. So it seems technically a comma is needed on the one hand but not the other.  Then again, perhaps I have it all wrong!

Although she made her way carefully through the fog so dense and ominous that she shivered more with every step, she made herself laugh and she raised her chin.

Answer
Ok, I see your point.  Good observation.

...herself laugh as she did during a Punch and Judy performance at her first elementary school
This could easily use a comma after =laugh=.

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What I was trying to say was that if you have an opening clause (which is subordinate, by definition), followed by two main clauses (plus conjunction):  it's ok to leave out the comma just before the conjunction.

Subordinate clause of some type, noun verb and noun verb.

This works because the two main clauses are short.  The eye can "take in" the entire sentence in one glance.  

~~

If the sentence is long, however, it's better to divide it.
Clause + noun/verb. Noun/verb.

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If the sentence is really long (long opening clause, two long main clauses), convert the subordinate clause to a third main clause.  Then you have the choice of:

(1) 3 separate sentences
(2) compound sentence + simple sentence
(3) simple sentence + compound sentence

Let's masticate on this one, albeit short:
Although she ran to school, the bell had rung, and she was late.  


[too many commas! do you see how your eye is "confused"?]

If you cut it up, you have three options.
(1) She ran to school.  The bell had rung.  She was late.
(2) She ran to school, and the bell had rung.  She was late.
(3) She ran to school.  The bell had rung, and she was late.

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Notice that the =although= idea is missing, and this changes the sense.  

~~

Am I getting myself in deeper and deeper into confusion and thus you, too?
mb  

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