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Using MS Word, I typed, "As Roblin and Adelaide are reading the reviews, Roblin thinks that women may get the vote and their rights after all.

MS Word puts a green squiggle under "reviews," and it asks me to change the comma to a semi colon. If I do, however, my entire sentence is wrong. What can I change to make it correct?

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The best thing to change to make it correct is to turn off Word's grammar checker. It will then no longer be flagged as wrong, as indeed it is not. –  Andrew Leach Mar 13 '13 at 12:26

3 Answers 3

As Roblin and Adelaide are reading the reviews, Roblin thinks that women may get the vote and their rights after all.

Semicolon wouldn’t make any sense in this case. It would break apart the sentence needlessly. After re-reading it a few times I think that keeping the comma there is the best thing you can do without rewording the sentence or the tense you are working in.

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I agree, this sentence can not be made correct without rewording it, and it's the tense that seems incorrect. –  Carl Smith Mar 13 '13 at 13:27

You don't need to change the sentence at all. There is nothing wrong with it. MS Word is incorrect in suggesting that it should be changed. The automatic correction rules do make a lot of mistakes.

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See mine and Robert's answers below. The sentence is definitely incorrect. MS Word sucks, but it can not be blamed for green-lining this sentence. –  Carl Smith Mar 13 '13 at 13:29

Your sentence is wrong. It should read...

As Roblin and Adelaide were reading the reviews, Roblin thought that women may get the vote and their rights after all.

Or better still...

As Roblin and Adelaide read the reviews, Roblin thought that women may get the vote and their rights after all.

Your version implies that Roblin thinks it because both Roblin and Adelaide are reading the reviews. The beginning of the sentence As Roblin and Adelaide are reading the reviews... suggests that what follows is consequential, when, in fact, Roblin didn't think it because he and Adelaide were reading reviews.

You can make sense of it, but it flouts convention and abuses tense, making it confusing for the reader.

UPDATE: Please see the comments below. Readers should note that there's disagreement over the various answers given, amongst members with a good knowledge of the subject.

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I hate it when people down-vote, but don't offer a comment. How is anyone supposed to learn anything from that? I guess it's a question for meta. –  Carl Smith Mar 13 '13 at 13:26
I assume the downvoter downvoted because your answer is basically saying it's incorrect to narrate something in present tense, which lots of books, stories, etc do all the time. –  alcas Mar 13 '13 at 16:13
The sentence is NOT wrong. It is perfectly fine. It is in present tense, which seems to disturb you for some reason, but your whole analysis about what the sentence implies is merely an overlay that you have invented. There is no such implication. The sentence merely says the same thing as "while they are in the process of reading the reviews, she thinks something about it." Alcas is correct; present tense is a creative choice, often used. The syntax of the sentence is quite simple, and quite simply without flaw. –  John M. Landsberg Mar 14 '13 at 1:29
I would also draw your attention to Andrew Leach's comment; he agrees the sentence is fine. Furthermore, Robert's comment does not state that the sentence is wrong. He says that "the comma is the best thing you can do WITHOUT rewording" it or changing the tense; in other words, he suggests that it COULD have the tense changed if the writer chose to do so, but not that it is incorrect as it stands. And he explicitly states that Word's suggestion of using a semicolon is wrong, which it is. –  John M. Landsberg Mar 14 '13 at 1:36
I never said it's wrong to use present tense at all, just that here it's not used correctly. The sentence is incorrect. If you can't see that, now that I've explained it to you, there's nothing I can do. This isn't the place for lengthy rants. –  Carl Smith Mar 14 '13 at 12:25

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