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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." -- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

From Wikipedia.

A comma splice is the use of a comma to join two independent clauses. For example: It is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark. Although acceptable in some languages and compulsory in others (e.g., Bulgarian or French), comma splices are usually considered style errors in English.

Would the sentence above be an example of an author making stylistic error on purpose?

Thanks

  • 4
    Certainly it's deliberate, no question of that, but I'd opine that the primary device being employed is anaphora, rather than the comma splice. – Dan Bron Jun 8 '16 at 12:52
  • @Dan Bron: While you're correct, I do think that this is actually a combination of both. Repeating it was the creates the anaphora, while the clauses are joined using comma splices. – MadWard Jun 8 '16 at 12:56
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    As the very Wikipedia article you cite suggests, the "rule" against comma splices does not reflect the facts of English grammar; it is a 'baby rule' imposed by teachers upon learners (native and non-native) to discourage misapplication in ordinary prose of the ancient and effective rhetorical device the ancient Greeks called asyndeton. It's perfectly OK to use it if you know what you're doing. – StoneyB Jun 8 '16 at 12:59
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The two excellent comments from Dan Bron and StoneyB have given you your answer: the famous quote from A Tale of Two Cities is an example of a skilled author making a stylistic choice, not an error. As Dan Bron noted:

"Certainly it's deliberate, no question of that, but I'd opine that the primary device being employed is anaphora, rather than the comma splice."

To which StoneyB added:

"The 'rule' against comma splices does not reflect the facts of English grammar; it is a 'baby rule' imposed by teachers upon learners (native and non-native) to discourage misapplication in ordinary prose of the ancient and effective rhetorical device the ancient Greeks called asyndeton. It's perfectly OK to use it if you know what you're doing."

This Dickens quote is also used as an example of a balanced sentence.

[All credit for this answer goes to Dan Bron and StoneyB. Thank you to both.]

  • 1
    +1. Also, I edited your answer to show you the markdown for linking text to URLs. Depending on what interface you're using to post (e.g. a web browser, one of the mobile apps, etc), you should also see a row of buttons for formatting your prose; the one that looks like a two-link chain allows you to add hyperlinks. For more details, see the help entry on editing. – Dan Bron Jun 8 '16 at 14:14
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    Aha! It works! Thank you so much for your edits and guidance, Dan. – Mark Hubbard Jun 8 '16 at 15:13

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