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Is my comma placement correct in this sentence?

I applied, and was picked, to play on the basketball team

or should it be

I applied, and was picked to play on the basketball team.

Could someone also explain the 'grammar rule' that goes with this.

Thanks

  • In your first sentence "and was picked" is a parenthetical phrase. It's less important to the meaning of the sentence. – teppic Jan 11 '17 at 1:24
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I applied and was picked to play on the basketball team.

No comma is necessary because they're not two independent clauses. The second one doesn't have a subject.

I applied and was picked...

You could do I applied, and I was picked... since I applied and I was picked are two independent clauses.

also, your first sentence might be correct also, but I don't personally like the way it sounds. It kinda disconnects the actions of applying and being picked imo.

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  • @mobileink's final paragraph about your first example makes sense to me. – Sam Lehman Jan 10 '17 at 21:27
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The rules of punctuation are rhetorical (and thus stylistic), not grammatical. The terms - period, comma, colon - derive from classical rhetoric, where they referred to the rhythms of spoken, not written language. You write a period to indicate a full stop in speech. You write a comma to indicate a pause, with more to follow. Etc.

So if you write your example with no commas, you're signaling to the reader that your sentence is to be spoken straight through, with no significant pauses. If you insert a comma, you're telling the reader "pause here, but don't do a full stop, there's more to come".

So the two alternative examples you give are just encodings of two ways to speak the text. They're both perfectly acceptable - and so is the version without commas - which means it's effectively a stylistic choice.

However, note that rhetorical devices affect meaning in very subtle ways. Your first example, with two commas, makes "was picked" stand out, just because it is isolated by a pause on both sides. You might want to use that form if you want to emphasize that you were selected (maybe because of your virtues), rather than merely accepted.

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    The rules of punctuation are certainly stylistic, and they may derive from classical rhetorical oratory, but their purpose in text is to guide the reader to the correct parse. Commas are written cues; pauses are aural ones. There will be an overlap between comma placement in text and pauses upon reciting that text, but most written material isn't read aloud or intended to be. – deadrat Jan 10 '17 at 21:33
  • It's an easily ascertainable fact that the terms derive from Classical Rhetoric, and they have nothing to do with grammatical parsing - except insofar as speech rhythms govern parsing, which is always the case. Whether written text is intended to be read aloud is irrelevant. The interpretation of written text is intrinsically and essentially dependent on an understanding of the spoken language it encodes. – user175542 Jan 10 '17 at 21:41
  • This is wrong in every particular. The reliance on the derivation from classical rhetoric, while true, is a form of etymological fallacy. Written text is unidirectional and linear but must be understood by a grammar that is neither of those. Punctuation marks are aids to constructing the proper parse. The interpretation of written text is dependent on that grammar (and other related things like usage) and may be undertaken without making a sound and indeed, may be undertaken by those incapable of making or hearing speech. – deadrat Jan 10 '17 at 23:02

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