34

The following sentences both say that you have been directed to do a job:

Complete the job, as directed.

vs

Complete the job as directed.

But which of the two sentences above will assert that you are to do the work, and make sure you do it the way you were told to do it?

If I omit the comma, does it entail a change in meaning, or at least emphasis?

  • 2
    The comma indicates a pause in speech, and just as in speech a meaingful pause lends gravitas to the following clause, so the comma does when written. – Dan Bron Nov 20 '14 at 14:25
  • 2
    @DanBron yes, definitely, but possibly with an unwanted change of meaning. Explained more in my answer. – itsbruce Nov 20 '14 at 14:30
  • @itsbruce, fair point, and +1 – Dan Bron Nov 20 '14 at 14:51
  • 2
    Another possible use case is the parenthetical comma: "Complete the job (as directed)" becomes "Complete the job, as directed". – Digital Chris Nov 20 '14 at 16:35
  • @DigitalChris: I'm certain that's it. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 21 '14 at 12:43
36

The comma after “job” tells us that the phrase as directed is non-restrictive.

The sentence states “you have been directed to do a job”, and implies that how you do it is up to you.

But if we take out the comma,

Complete the job as directed.

Now “as directed” is restrictive, and the sentence is saying something more severe: Do the work, and make sure you do it the way you were told to do it.

  • 1
    Heh, we hit return mere seconds apart with almost identical answers ;) +1 for non-restrictive. – itsbruce Nov 20 '14 at 16:18
  • 2
    The distinction isn't actually one of restrictiveness vs. nonrestrictiveness, but of attachment (scope): without the comma, "as directed" is a complement in the verb phrase, whereas with the comma, it is an adjunct modifying the entire sentence (cf. "As directed, you must complete the job"). – ruakh Nov 21 '14 at 19:04
51

As Dan has said in his comment, the comma adds gravitas. However, I believe it also changes the implication of the sentence.

Complete the job, as directed

could be interpreted as "You have been told to finish this task. Do so.", which says nothing about how you should perform it. In contrast, I feel the clear implication of

Complete the job as directed

is "Finish this task in the manner which has been specified".

So it may be that adding gravitas risks reducing the actual authority, in this particular case.

  • 1
    Although not that to ensure sufficient gravitas AND authority, one should definitely NOT use the sentence "Complete the job as directed, as directed" – Jon Story Nov 21 '14 at 14:20
  • 2
    ... and since this direction is hereby given in your comment it's also clear that 'one should definitely NOT use the sentence "Complete the job as directed, as directed", as directed' – H.R.Rambler Nov 21 '14 at 17:50
1

With a comma: focus is on job completion and as previously suggested says nothing about how it is to be completed. The alternative without a comma has the sense of an imperative command that says do the job as directed in the way directed, but the punctuation is incomplete. With out a "!" ending the sentence the meaning and expression is weak and somewhat vague: as though spoken by an a person lacking confidence. Try: "Complete the job, as directed!"

0

Without comma, you were told (or directed) a specific way how to complete the job. Now you are asked to complete the job in precisely this way (that is you should not complete the task by any other method).

With comma, you were directed to complete the task previously. And now you are once more asked to complete the job (and reminded of the previous request).

  • That's a lot of meaning represented by one little comma. – itsbruce Nov 21 '14 at 16:12

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