Editing for Liberty #4: Columbians and Compound Predicates

Can You Spot the Error?

  1. For generations of Americans, Columbia’s Juan Valdez symbolized coffee production.
  2. Governor Lee was the Governor of Utah.
  3. If these authors are right, an anarcho-libertarian society could provide for defense in an entirely adequate way.
  4. He maintained his principles and never gave into the academic trends of his time.
  5. She was asked to testify before congress.
  6. There were strange goings on in the neighborhood.
  7. There are even more obvious solutions than that one.
  8. This 1000-page book is worth reading.
  9. The American right long ago slid into the abyss.
  10. He walked the dog and he found a cat.

What Would You Do with This?

  1. Is it non drug user? Nondrug user? Non-drug user? Non-drug-user? Non–drug user?
    We probably aren’t talking about the user of a “nondrug,” so an en dash is called for. Thus, it is non–drug user. In a Q&A, Chicago explains that

CMOS style is to close up prefixes unless there is a reason not to. (Some editors leave the hyphen in to avoid doubling a letter: non-native, pre-exist, co-owner—the first two of which Webster’s closes up.) We use an en dash when the prefix goes with an open compound noun: non–United States citizen. And we use a hyphen when the prefix goes with a hyphenated compound: non-English-speaking.

  • How would you punctuate this sentence?

    The problem is: can we have our cake and eat it too?

    Chicago 6.52 tells us not to use a colon in this situation, but instead a comma, so that the sentence reads

    The problem is, can we have our cake and eat it too?

Compound Predicates Continued: When Do Two Clauses Have the Same Subject?

(by Mike)

Last week, Nathalie’s newsletter warned us against adding commas to compound predicates.

As the Chicago Manual of Style puts it,

A comma is not normally used between the parts of a compound predicate — that is, two or more verbs having the same subject, as distinct from two independent clauses.

The rule itself is simple enough. It’s clear that He walked the dog and found a cat. has only one subject and therefore is a compound predicate; it should have no comma. Whereas He walked the dog, and she found a cat. obviously has two different subjects; it is not a compound predicate, and such a sentence should have a comma.

But what about our Spot the Error sentence #10: He walked the dog and he found a cat.? Do those two verbs have “the same subject”? Should there be a comma in this sentence?

In a sentence like that one, where the subject of the verbs is logically the same but grammatically restated, the verbs in fact have separate subjects. They are independent clauses, and they do not form a compound predicate.

He walked the dog, and he found a cat.

Special thanks to Daniel for finding the answer to this longstanding question implicit in the second example in Chicago 5.197.

The Errors Spotted

  1. For generations of Americans, Colombia‘s Juan Valdez symbolized coffee production. [No, as far as we know, Juan Valdez did not attend Columbia University.]
  2. Governor Lee was the governor of Utah.
  3. If these authors are right, an anarcholibertarian society could provide for defense in an entirely adequate way.
  4. He maintained his principles and never gave in to the academic trends of his time.
  5. She was asked to testify before Congress.
  6. There were strange goings-on in the neighborhood.
  7. There are even-more-obvious solutions than that one.
  8. This 1,000-page book is worth reading. [Don’t forget commas in numerals that have more than 3 digits.]
  9. The American Right long ago slid into the abyss.
  10. He walked the dog, and he found a cat.

Is there something you’d like to contribute or see covered in Editing for Liberty? Post a comment! Contributions to “Spot the Error” are especially welcome.

2 Comments

Filed under Editing for Liberty

2 responses to “Editing for Liberty #4: Columbians and Compound Predicates

  1. Pingback: Editing for Liberty #5 | Invisible Order

  2. Mike Reid

    Thank you, Nathalie! Spot the Error helped me catch a sentence about the Columbian drug lords.

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