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Knowledge is expensive. But even more so, is stupidity.


Knowledge is expensive. But, stupidity is even more so.

I'm very confused as to the correct punctuation and order or the above phrase.

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Pointing out the obvious - you've written them as two sentences, not a phrase. –  Jonathan Leffler Apr 13 '11 at 4:32
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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

For the second, I think you should use:

Knowledge is expensive, but stupidity is even more so.

It is probably the better 'Use of English'.

If I was punctuating the first, I'd probably use a very fussy style:

Knowledge is expensive, but (even more) so is stupidity.

Knowledge is expensive, but, even more, so is stupidity.

Knowledge is expensive, but even more so is stupidity.

The last is least fussy, and most in the modern style of minimizing commas, but it still doesn't feel comfortable; the second sentence ('Knowledge is expensive, but stupidity is even more so') is better, I submit.

Finally, isn't it 'ignorance' rather than 'stupidity' that is more expensive than knowledge?

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upboated for "ignorance" –  jcolebrand Apr 13 '11 at 4:27
I'm not a huge fan of your middle sentence: separating "even more" from the sentence by commas looks a bit off. –  Cerberus Apr 13 '11 at 11:52
@Cerberus: nor me - the last of the three is probably best; the middle is more like 19th century punctuation. –  Jonathan Leffler Apr 13 '11 at 12:51
"Even more so" is a phrase, so I think your middle sentence should be "Knowledge is expensive, but, even more so, is stupidity." But that is still awkward and I would stick with "Knowledge is expensive, but stupidity is even more so." –  Kevin Apr 13 '11 at 15:11
@Kevin: I know about the phrase 'even more so', but when you remove that as an adverbial phrase, what you have left is nonsense: "Knowledge is expensive, but is stupidity". So, the adverbial portion must be just 'even more', because "Knowledge is expensive, but so is stupidity" makes sense (even more so than the originals, in some respects). You could make a case for "Knowledge is expensive, but (even more so) so is stupidity". But it feels clumsy. That's why I prefer my first quoted answer, which uses the 'even more so' phrase. The other three are all creaky - ungainly, unhappy. –  Jonathan Leffler Apr 13 '11 at 16:23
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Quoting the OP

Knowledge is expensive. But even more so, is stupidity.


Knowledge is expensive. But, stupidity is even more so.

My thoughts:

The second one is just wrong.

You could always go with

Knowledge is expensive; stupidity even more so.

You're chaining two related statements together using the word but.

You could also use it that way without the semicolon, using a period instead. Otherwise, I would just try and leave out the "but".

Knowledge is expensive. Stupidity even more so.

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I'm not so sure I like that comma in your / the OP's first sentence. Couldn't you just leave it out? It doesn't seem necessary in this sentence: it may be elliptical, but it is still a complete sentence. –  Cerberus Apr 13 '11 at 11:50
@Cerberus ~ The stuff above the horizontal rule was what the OP posted. I copied for clarity and to make sure I had it right. I didn't care for either one particularly, hence I volunteered two new examples. But I won't retract the OP's original content unless they do in their post and I realize it. –  jcolebrand Apr 13 '11 at 16:45
@drachenstern: OK, now I understand. I thought you approved of the first sentence, because you didn't say that you were merely quoting, nor that you disapproved of the first sentence. But with these comments it is clear. –  Cerberus Apr 14 '11 at 16:00
@Cerberus ~ Thanks for pointing that out. I do it so often that I never considered that it wasn't clear. I'll make an effort to indicate that in the future across all my SE posts (because it's good advice!) –  jcolebrand Apr 14 '11 at 16:26
@drachenstern: Haha, with that font weight it is most definitely clear! –  Cerberus Apr 14 '11 at 17:46
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The better order is

Knowledge is expensive. But even more so is stupidity.

Both orders are grammatically correct, but this one puts the important word "stupidity" at the end, where it gets emphasis.

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A lot of punctuation, and especially commas, I think you can determine just by speaking the sentence out loud.

If you speak "Knowledge is expensive. But stupidity is even more so", do you pause (more precisely, end an intonation group) after "but"?

Well, you might do so, for rhetorical effect, if you were making a speech: "But ... stupidity is even more so". But in normal speech you would not separate "but" from "stupidity", so you don't put punctuation in.

Your first example, "Knowledge is expensive. But even more so, is stupidity", is an example of chiasmus, and again would be more appropriate when making a speech than in ordinary conversation. In that rhetorical context you might pause after "even more so", but I think that in a more normal delivery you would not, so a comma is not appropriate. But I think the case is less clear than with your second example.

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