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Monday, March 29, 2021

Errata Fix Retracted

 Oh oh. I guess I'm too impressionable sometimes. AM wrote a convincing argument that the punctuation in the sentence mentioned in yesterday's post. Read below his argument which led me to reverse course again - or am I being too impressionable?

I must respectfully disagree with Brit: If the commas are removed from the quoted sentence, it says something entirely different – roughly the opposite of what it says now – which actually makes little to no sense in context. 

The sentence as it is: 

Toshi did not become homesick, because the activity at Zoun-in was so invigorating, and because he was in love with So-on.

The first phrase is a statement of fact, which could stand on its own as a sentence: "Toshi did not become homesick." The second and third phrases are the reasons behind the situation described in the first phrase, i.e. why Toshi did not become homesick. They are not parts of the thought in the first phrase; they are separate statements of fact that could each stand on their own, but related to the first phrase, thus connected to it with the conjunction "because". 

In speech, there would be natural pauses between phrase 1 (statement), phrase 2 (reason #1), and phrase 3 (reason #2). In writing, such pauses are usually indicated by commas. Sometimes such commas are omitted, usually in the case of a simple statement followed by a single short reason, where in speech there would usually be no pause: "He went outside to see the position of the sun." Or even "He went outside because he wanted to see the position of the sun." This reads better without a comma, though a comma would not be incorrect – and would communicate that the speaker speaks slowly, with pauses most people would not use. 

But in a complex sentence like this one, there would definitely be pauses in speech, which should be represented by commas in writing. 

Try reading the all-in-one version out loud (as it will be in an audiobook) without pauses: 

Toshi did not become homesick because the activity at Zoun-in was so invigorating and because he was in love with So-on.

First, it is too long to be spoken without pauses; it feels rushed, leaving the speaker out of breath. Second, if the three phrases are combined into one, the meaning is changed. The all-in-one sentence now says that the reason why Toshi became homesick was not because "the activity at Zoun-in was so invigorating and because he was in love with So-on." (And the second "because" should be deleted, or should be changed to "or because".) And the sentence should then be followed by another which states the real reason why Toshi became homesick. But there is no such following, clarifying sentence. 

I don't think that's what you meant. I think you meant that the reason Toshi did not become homesick was because (a) the activity at Zoun-in was so invigorating and (b) he was in love with So-on. Actually two related but different reasons, which is why they are separated by a comma and a second "because". Technically, the second comma could be removed, but then the combined phrase would be too long to be read comfortably without a pause. So the comma might as well stay. 

Well, this explanation may be too long, but anyway, the sentence is fine as it is. I wanted to show you why. I really don't think it should be changed.