Is the presence of the comma in, "Is milk without coffee, considered latte?", acceptable usage?

  • I think it's to mark the rhyme, as in poetry – mgb Mar 7 '13 at 6:46
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    I've just marked this as a duplicate of Is a comma necessary in "What’s funny, is …"? but now I'm not so sure. But the comma is grammatically wrong because you are separating the subject of the question from its complement. – Andrew Leach Mar 7 '13 at 6:57
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    You need to expand the question as to how the comma came to be there, why you suspected it could be wrong (to be extent of being an 'inexcusable crime'), what efforts you already made to find answers to your question -- and post it on ELL ell.stackexchange.com – Kris Mar 7 '13 at 7:35
  • @mgb You mean, if this were poetry, it might have some use? But if that were so, how exactly would it "mark the rhyme?" – John M. Landsberg Mar 7 '13 at 10:57
  • I think it was intended to rhyme the first and second halves. So as in poetry where you put a comma to separate metre lines if they have to be printed on one line. There once was a woman from Leeds, who swallowed a packet of seeds.... – mgb Mar 7 '13 at 16:28

This is one of the common abuses of comma as suggested by this paper.

12 Do not use a comma to separate the subject from the verb.

An eighteen-year-old in California, is now considered an adult. (incorrect)

The most important attribute of a cricket player, is quick reflex actions. (incorrect)

Commas in the wrong places can break a sentence into illogical pieces, or confuse readers with unnecessary and unexpected pauses. Therefore a comma shouldn't be used in the expression "Is milk without coffee, considered latte".

According to a Wikipedia article, commas are normally used

  1. in lists (A, B and C)

  2. to separate clauses (I was drunk, but I still managed to walk home.)

  3. after certain adverbs (Therefore, a comma would be appropriate in this sentence.)

  4. to enclose parenthetical words and phrases (Archy, a teenager, is developing an iPhone application that can change the world.)

  5. between adjectives (He is a tall, distinguished man.)

  6. before quotes (Mr. Kershner says, "That's what I'm talking about.")

  7. to separate parts of geographical references (The plane landed in Kampala, Uganda.)

  8. in dates (December 19, 1941)

  9. in names (John Smith, Ph.D.)

  10. to indicate that a word has been omitted (The cat was white; the dog, brown. [Here the comma replaces was])

  11. before, after, or around a noun or pronoun used independently in speaking to some person, place or thing (I hope, Kenny, that you will read this.)

Note: a comma can also be used as an Oxford Comma (the second comma in "A, B, and C")

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  • Excellent answer! (I upvoted it.) I would like to submit, however, that "scenario" is a bit off the mark here. It really should be used to mean "a description of a scene or situation, given at some length and with significant detail." It doesn't mean "a particular instance" (but you're not alone in using it that way). – John M. Landsberg Mar 7 '13 at 10:52
  • @JohnM.Landsberg Thanks for pointing that out. You are correct, I shouldn't use the expression "in this scenarior" here. I think I should just replace it with OP's sentence. Thank you again for informing me about the mistake that I made. Had you not commented, I would not have noticed this bad habit of mine. – 吖奇说 の archywillhe Mar 7 '13 at 11:18

Yes. And once the writer is convicted, all that will remain to be determined is the appropriate sentence.

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OP here. My view is that a comma may be employed, whenever in natural speech, one might like to pause ever-so-briefly. In this case, the purpose of the "ever-so-brief" pause here is to clearly demarcate "milk without coffee" as the chief subject of the question.

Perhaps here there was little risk of confusion. Consider however another example. The following three questions are identical, except for the position of the comma; each however conveys a different meaning.

(1) “Is the enemy without a woman, from France?”

(2) “Is the enemy without, a woman from France?”

(3) “Is the enemy, without a woman from France?”

If these sentences do indeed parallel my original sentence (“Is milk without coffee, considered latte?”), then the use of the comma here must similarly be "incorrect". Yet it serves the very useful purpose of clarification.

(The above three sentences may be equivalently rendered as:

(1) "The enemy who does not possess a woman--is this enemy from France?"

(2) "Is the enemy outside (e.g. outside the city walls) a French woman?"

(3) "Does the enemy not possess a woman from France?")

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  • 2
    Those really do, not parse right. – tchrist Mar 26 '13 at 23:19

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