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Does this sentence require a comma before including?

He has written on a range of moral issues including poverty, globalization, and euthanasia.

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This is one of those hateful gerund clauses that is inherently ambiguous, so it always requires a comma and the understanding that it means the items that follow the word including are just a few examples, not an exhaustive list. If what you want is an exhaustive list, then instead of including, you must say either "a range of moral issues: poverty, globalization, and euthanasia" or "He has written on the moral issues of poverty, globalization, and euthanasia" -- "a range of" then becomes a pointless verbosity. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don't use unnecessary words. –  user21497 Mar 22 '13 at 7:22
@BillFranke: I agree, especially about the comma and the non-definitivity/-ness, although I consider including a participle here. –  Cerberus Mar 23 '13 at 20:58
@Cerberus: You may be right that it's a participle rather than a gerund, so I should change the term to /-ing/-word clauses. Then whatever its part of speech is has no bearing on its meaning or stylistic fitness. –  user21497 Mar 24 '13 at 0:52
@BillFranke: You could call them that, or participial phrases, or -ing modifiers? I like to distinguish between -ing forms that mean "that/which/who include(s)" and those meaning "the act of including / to include", but I understand there are some who somehow prefer using one word for both -ing forms. [You could replace the -ing forms in my sentence with that mean and to prefer, respectively...see how nicely that works?] –  Cerberus Mar 24 '13 at 1:29

2 Answers 2

It requires a comma because including is the subordinating conjunction for the dependent clause. Notice that if you DON'T put a comma there, you are essentially qualifying the moral issues upon which he has written as only those that include poverty ("moral issues including poverty"), in which case "globalization, and euthanasia" becomes one of two things: either a meaningless fragment, or the last two elements in a linking sequence that was not intended ("1. a range of moral issues including poverty, 2. globalization, and 3. euthanasia").

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+1 Agreed, but it is a participle, not a conjunction. –  Cerberus Mar 23 '13 at 20:59
@Cerberus But just as with many parts of speech it can qualify as more than one part of speech, and although I can't absolutely swear to this, I think it must qualify as the subordinating conjunction for the dependent clause in this case, because we have a dependent clause which is conjoined to the independent clause, and something conjoins it, and "including" is the word which conjoins it, so I don't think we can say that it isn't the subordinating conjunction. –  John M. Landsberg Sep 21 '13 at 15:43
It could also be “a range of moral issues that include 1) poverty, 2) globalisation, and 3) euthanasia”, though I'll readily admit that I can think of no moral issues that include all these things. But it seems odd to me to refer to globalisation as a moral issue, anyway. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 2 '13 at 9:04
Setting aside the point that the debate over whether the use of "including" creates an ambiguity was neither invited by nor relevant to the question posed, I completely disagree that it creates an ambiguity. "Including" has a clear meaning, and the fact that some writers may use it sloppily or some readers may infer the possibility of a complete list should not dissuade any writer from using it properly. –  user62397 Jan 15 at 15:28
@Cerberus There is set of -ing words that either already have or are on their way towards turning into prepositions. I don’t think you’ll quibble over words like during, barring, excepting, failing, saving, notwithstanding as one-time verbal forms now accepted as prepositions. Others aren’t necessarily there yet, or have variant analyses where dictionaries hedge their bets with weasel words: even the OED calls excluding, passing, pending “quasi-prepositions”, and other sources list some as “not fully grammaticized”. –  tchrist May 18 at 2:46

In that sentence, a comma is required before “including,” which is introducing a partial list (per Garner's Modern American Usage).

@user21497, @Cerberus, @BillFranke, @John M. Landsberg: A participle (the -ing or -ed form of a verb) can be used in various ways: as a gerund, which is a noun (singing is fun); as an adjective (a flying nun; a missed opportunity); or, as is the case above, as a preposition. (Preposition = a word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause, as in “the man on the platform” and “she arrived after dinner” -- from the online Oxford dictionary.)

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Analysing certain -ing words as prepositions is an interesting topic. With some there is no question: “I sleep during the day.” But in others there may still be some leeway or dispute or transition. I have the feeling that including is one such, since when you say “I sleep all the time, including during the day.’ you find that if you analyse including there as a preposition, then its prepositional object must be the entire prepositional phrase during the day — making it suddenly a noun phrase, which I’m more than a little skeptical about. See my comments to Cerberus above. –  tchrist May 18 at 3:10
I would begin with "-ing and -ed forms can be used...", not "a participle can be used...", because participles exclude gerunds and prepositions. –  Cerberus May 18 at 3:55

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