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A Grammar Question

Corey McGlone
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Joined: Dec 20, 2001
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Ok, so I'm know to use parenthesis entirely too often when I write and I have a question about a particular case. If I'm listing examples in parenthesis, I'll often fish with "etc." - something like "dogs, cats, etc."
Now, what I wonder is that, if I finish a sentence with a series in parenthesis and that ends with "etc.", where does the punctuation belong? Here's an example:
There are many good pets (dogs, cats, fish, etc.)
Where is the punctuation supposed to go? Is that correct? Or might it be one of the following?
There are many good pets (dogs, cats, fish, etc.).
There are many good pets (dogs, cats, fish, etc).
There are many good pets. (dogs, cats, fish, etc.)
Any English majors out there that know?
Gracias.


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Nathaniel Stoddard
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Corey,
If there is a punctuation mark needed inside the parentheses you can put it in there. Like: Sally, (She is actually my aunt.) made us sandwiches yesterday. In your case there, there's no need for that period. And actually, it should go outside the parenthesis to finish the sentence. Now, there is the issue of the ellipses ("..."). (See how that worked.)
So, really your sentence should look like this:

If the parenthetical portion actually needed a final punctuation mark, it could have gone something like:

My source: "The Everything Grammar and Style Book" bought for a whopping $12.95. (That should have been underlined, but UBB doesn't give it. Am I forgiven?) The book doesn't say if you need elipses with "etc" though. I was guessing at that point.


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John Smith
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So, really your sentence should look like this:
There are many good pets (dogs, cats, fish, etc...).

This doesn't look right to me. I'd say use either "etc" or "...", but not both. "etc" stands for etcetera and means "continuing in the same way", such as in "so forth" and "so on". In the context above, the "..." carries the same meaning and therefore is redundant.
Nathaniel Stoddard
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Sounds good to me. I wish one of the authors would pop in. Where are they when you need them? These are important issues!! I think you're right though. A quick Google search doesn't show anybody using "etc...". (Or should that be '"etc...."'?)
fred rosenberger
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My (uneducated) opinion is that it should be
There are many good animals (dog, cat, bird, etc.).
"etc" is an abbreviation, so you need the period for that, inside the (). then you need a period to end the sentence.
It's just like a block of code. you would say
There are many good animals.
now, insert the proper paretisized list, which is (dogs, cats, etc.)
but remember, i was an extremly poor student when it came to English classes (yes, i don't know my mother tongue).


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Michael Ernest
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There is one proper punctuation mark to introduce a list of any length: the colon.


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Bhau Mhatre
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Joined: Jun 11, 2003
Posts: 199
I usually try to avoid the parenthesis, the short version of etcetera, as well as the ellipses, as much as possible, or atleast avoid them all appearing in the same construct.
There are many good pets like dogs, cats, fish, etc.
There are many good pets like dogs, cats, fish, ...
There are many good pets like dogs, cats, and fish, to name a few.
Also, I find it difficult to end a statement with a list. It helps avoiding the punctuation problem with parenthesis if something follows the list.
There are many good pets (dogs, cats, fish, etc.) that kids love to play with.
There are many good pets (dogs, cats, fish, ...) that kids love to play with.
Disclaimer: Being a non-native English speaker/writer, I am not too sure of the above. School was British-style, career has been American-style.
Comments from the linguists will be appreciated
Thanks Michael. I read your post after I had typed the above. So added this and I clicked the post anyways.


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Gail Mikels
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Joined: May 07, 2001
Posts: 634
Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
There is one proper punctuation mark to introduce a list of any length: the colon.

I agree!!!
After all, without a 'colon', we'd all be in a world of shi*!!


Gail Mikels
Nathaniel Stoddard
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How lovely. Thank you, Elaine.
Michael Ernest
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I'm inspired by the arrival of Elaine's 289th post, so I thought I'd add to this.
A list might also appear after a dash, but a dash indicates first a comment or some information that does not further the main idea of a sentence.
This would be incorrect usage (egregious misuse, if we're asking a grammarian with a flair for drama):

This is work the colon should do (the punctuation mark, Elaine).
Perhaps the last sentence gives a few of you some idea of what a parenthetical expression should do: indicate a change of voice or tone. If you've been through lambda calculus you might want to contain a list this way, but that's notation, not punctuation.
Here's an example where dashes work better than a colon. A colon doesn't give you a way to return back to a main sentence topic. Dashes are ideal for this:

Don't get me wrong, I like the big zoo animals -- lions, tigers, rhinos, and so on -- but the risks of shooting them in captivity usually exceed the value of selling their remains to the black market.

Use dashes to break away from the main thrust of a sentence; colons to introduce a list; parentheses to change tone or voice; and semicolons to delimit wordy list elements.
[ Corrected and revised, because it can always be better! -- mfe ]
[ April 21, 2004: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
John Smith
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ME: Don't get me wrong, I like the big zoo animals -- lions, tigers, rhinos, and so on -- but the risks of shooting them in captivity usually exceeds the value of selling their remains to the black market.
Should there be a comma after the "so on", along with the dashes? I am accustomed to that particular usage, -- and it's perfectly legal and common in my first language. Is it different in English? If so, would you ever use a combination?
I also recall that my English teacher (here in US college) admonished the use of "and so on", "and so forth", and "etc.". I happen to agree with her, -- these shortcuts look especially ugly when preceded by just one or two items item in the list, such as in

I have a colon, a heart, etc.
Michael Ernest
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I was saving up for a rant on the term et cetera. Alas, I fear the moment is gone. Anyone who would like to hear me go off on questionable usage in English, hold up your lighter!
A final comma followed by a dash is not standard usage by any authoritative American guide. The Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association Handbook both view this as incorrect form. I believe one of my personal, favorite bibles On Writing Well takes a dim view of it as well. I would guess Elements of Style bans this mutation from any useful purchase on the civilized mind, but Strunk is cranky sometimes.
Jim Yingst
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Should there be a comma after the "so on", along with the dashes?
No. At least, I've never seen such usage in English.
would you ever use a combination?
I can't think of any example where this would be appropriate. Though I may have overlooked something.
I also recall that my English teacher (here in US college) admonished the use of "and so on", "and so forth", and "etc.".
Sounds like it's probably good advice to eliminate shortcuts and force students to articulate their thoughts more precisely - for teaching purposes. However in most day-to-day applications I would see nothing wrong with using those phrases. They may lack elegance in some cases, but they are also convenient, and they get the job done.


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Nick George
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I'm afraid I must vehemently protest to ol' Stoddy in the original reply. "Sally, (She is actually my aunt.) made us sandwiches yesterday?" There is ABSOLUTELY no justification for the period there. Sally, (she is actually my aunt) made us sandwiches yesterday. A period ending a sentance, within another sentance?! Looks hidieous (that ain't spelt right, is it?). Please note that digging up some obscure rule that says you can have a complete, indepentant, period-ended sentance within parentheses will NOT change the fact that it looks hideious (that word is getting on my nerves), and as such is an abomination.
As I said, this stirs quite a bit of vehemence in me. It just looks bad. And I would say, "I've got lots of pets (dogs, cats, etc.)." if you must use parentheses. It's ALMOST as bad of an abomination as ol' Stoddy's. Obviously, "I've got lots of pets, such as dogs, cats, etc." would be a thousand times more elegant.


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Michael Ernest
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My aunt Sally never makes me sandwiches.
Nathaniel Stoddard
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My book of rules was packed away in some unlabeled box so I can't dig it out and quote anything for you. It does look strange though. I'll give you that much. By the way, when did I become old? I did just have a birthday yesterday. But really, twenty-seven is not old!
Oh, I just remember the book's example. It actually had to do with a sentence that was making a statement but the parenthetical remark was actually a question. Example: Yesterday I turned 27 (Should that be spelled out as "twenty-seven?") years old. Maybe my first post looked especially strange since it had to do with two periods. Either way it looks weird though. Maybe I should start weeding out parentheses from all my posts.
John Smith
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Sally, (she is actually my aunt) made us sandwiches yesterday.
Shouldn't it be "Sally (she is actually my aunt) made sandwiches for us yesterday."?
Nick George
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Fair enough, and it deserves being said that in my very last post I caught myself using a period in parentheses, but in a slightly differnt way... let me see if I can find the quote...

From Intermediate Forum, subject being something about singletons
(Note: I lied about the canvas. In fact, I am using the OpenGL binding supplied by JOGL. If you are unfamiliar with this API, just trust me that GLDrawables are things wot you kin draw on, and GLs are things you need fer somethin' else. The theory is the same whether it's a GLDrawable or a <insert obscure class here>.)

But the difference is, there are multiple distince sentances in there, so periods are a necessity. You are quite right in saying that a question mark is necessary in that case, but I think that may be akin to how a question mark (or exlamation point) is used at the end of a quote that is not the end of a sentance (i.e. "Would you eat them in a boat?" said Sam I Am), while commas are used when it is merely a sentance (i.e. "I would not eat them in a boat," said the one who's not Sam I Am).
Finnally, Ol' needen't be taken with so strict an interpretation.
[ April 30, 2004: Message edited by: Joseph George ]
Michael Ernest
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Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:
Sally, (she is actually my aunt) made us sandwiches yesterday.
Shouldn't it be "Sally (she is actually my aunt) made sandwiches for us yesterday."?

Dashes would indicate a break from the main point of the sentence:
"Sally -- she is actually my aunt -- made sandwiches for us yesterday."
Parentheses, a change of tone or voice. Eugene's rendering seems "right" to me.
I have to wonder why you'd choose either approach in this context, unless you're transcribing key elements of a high tea chat. Then, shit, go all out and put an exclamation point at the end:
"Sally -- she is actually my aunt -- made sandwiches for us yesterday!"
and instruct the reader to imagine a speaker with both vacancy of mind and shortness of breath.
C'mon, knuckleheads, "My aunt Sally..." What's the matter with you people?
Nick George
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well, there are plenty of more attractive ways of saying it, the simplest being some bloody commas and a dependant clause: Sally, who is actually my aunt, made us some sandwiches. The question at hand is the use of punctuation in parentheses.
John Smith
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Sally, who is actually my aunt, made us some sandwiches. The question at hand is the use of punctuation in parentheses.
I was questioning not so much the punctiation, but the "made us some sandwiches" clause. From what I remember, the sequence of nouns, verbs, and the references to time and places is pretty much fixed in the English grammar. In other languages (such as Russian), you may swap the words in a sentence to make an emphasis on a particular term. So, coming back to the original sentence and formal English, the "made us some sandwiches" clause would become "made some sandwiches for us". I don't have the exact rule at hand -- it's just the feel that the "made us some sandwiches" came from ebonics rather than England.
 
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