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Is it appropriate to use a comma in the expression: ..."from the ground, up" or should there be no comma?

Without a comma, the expression seems strange to me. I've been criticized by a non-native English speaker for writing the expression in this way. Since he's put a lot more effort into learning the "rules" of English, I have a shadow of self-doubt. However, I have a feeling that this is one of the many (many) cases where English proves that rules were meant to be broken - or at the very least, that there are more rules than one can easily learn.

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From the ground up what? Coffee beans? –  Daniel Jan 27 '12 at 19:58
    
@Daniel: Well, here are over 2500 written instances of "reconstructed from the ground up" (never with a comma, I think), of which I doubt many involve ground up coffee beans. "General reference", I feel. –  FumbleFingers Jan 27 '12 at 21:03
    
@Fumble: facepalm I can't crack a joke. –  Daniel Jan 27 '12 at 22:56
    
@Daniel: Aw, c'mon! Where does it say any text following [username] must be a putdown? I actually thought that by writing "many" instead of "any" there I was metaphorically tipping my hat to you! (Okay - I'll upvote your comment just so there's no misunderstanding! :) –  FumbleFingers Jan 27 '12 at 23:01
    
@Fumble: redoubled facepalming I can't take a joke either. :) –  Daniel Jan 27 '12 at 23:36

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

No comma.

http://thesaurus.com/browse/from+scratch

From the very beginning

Synonyms: from square one, from the ground up, from the top, initially

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There is no rule to be broken here. Your friend is wrong and you are right, unless we're talking about some special case here, but since you didn't provide any further info, I'll assume we aren't.

The comma in the phrase would normally be very displaced. To explain further:

A) If you want the phrase, then no comma!

The fire burnt the house from the ground up.

B) If they are two different sentences:

The plane took off from the ground, up.

The case with the comma, although grammatical, still sounds a bit strange.

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The comma is unnecessary when supplying a direction.

from the top down

from Route 23 north

from the third one over

from Wednesday onward

One would include the comma only to set the direction apart for emphasis or contrast.

For the entire film, Zoolander only turns right. We expect the same in the climactic scene, as he strides out onto the platform. Then he turns, left.

So as you can imagine, the comma would be especially distracting when the direction is metaphorical.

The company is organized from the ground up.

There is a possibility of mis-reading "ground up" as in the results of something put through a grinder (e.g. 2g pepper, ground up or his dissertation committee really ground him up), but I think the chance is very slim here.

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I'd only include a comma if trying to make clear that this was not the conventional phrase "from the ground up". Like, "Trash was littered across the ground, up to the doorway, and inside the house."

But, "I built this company from the ground up", there should be no common.

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