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Original:

A boy, a girl and a dog too went for a walk.

Would the original or the following be better, or does it change the meaning?

A boy and a girl, and a dog too went for a walk.

Is there any improvement with regards to commas that you can suggest?

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    Drop the "too": "A boy, a girl, and a dog went for a walk". If you want to really underscore that the dog joined he boy and the girl, break it out into a separate clause or sentence "A boy and a girl went for a walk. A dog came along too." – Dan Bron Aug 13 '14 at 11:50
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    @Dan Bron Dropping the 'too' removes a required emphasis on the dog, so it in effect changes the meaning. And in my view it is quite unnecessary to add a further sentence. Whilst the OPs example does call for parenthetical commas, I think it only needs one 'and'. A boy, a girl, and a dog too, went for a walk does the job perfectly. – WS2 Aug 13 '14 at 11:55
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    There's nothing grammatically wrong with using two 'and's, although in terms of style I like the original better. And it should be punctuated "A boy and a girl, and a dog too, went for a walk". – Peter Shor Aug 13 '14 at 11:58
  • I guess I'm questioning if the emphasis on the dog is, in fact, required. If I saw it written in a story for children, I know it's intentional (-ly cutesy). If I saw it in a story by a child, I'd want him/her to first understand that in typical written and spoken English, there would be no "too",and to add it must be a conscious, explicit choice, designed to produce a specific effect (and I'd want the child to understand what that effect is, to a great enough extent to explain it to me). – Dan Bron Aug 13 '14 at 12:00
  • @Dan: what is wrong with that too? You don't need it, but if you want to emphasize the dog, you can use it. And children don't need telling that; they understand it naturally. I can't imagine a child thinking they have to say "a thing and another thing and a third thing too" to list three things. – Peter Shor Aug 13 '14 at 12:01
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In the first sentence the 'too' doesn't seem to add to or change the meaning.

In the second, using "a boy and a girl" works to suggest they are a pair, in that traditional romantic sense, which the first sentence doesn't, since there they are separately listed.

The 'too' in the second case seems to help that reading. "a boy and a girl, and a dog too" seems to reinforce the separateness of the "a dog" item from the "a boy and a girl" item. Whereas if you'd just put "a boy and a girl, and a dog", one might tend to read it as a wordy kind of list - "a boy and a girl and a dog".

But this kind of nuance may be a little subjective.

  • Damn, I should have thought up a better pair of words than boy and girl! I don't want to make them out to be a pair. All three words in the list are supposed to be having the same weight. – LWTBP Aug 13 '14 at 12:24

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