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I am unsure whether what I have written below constitutes a comma splice error because of the addition of "it would seem" at the end.

"He is a very clever man, almost too clever, it would seem."

I originally wrote it with this punctuation because, to me, "it would seem" is parenthetical and merely an afterthought. (I'm not sure if there is specific terminology for words that appear at the end of a sentence in this way. If someone could let me know if there is, I would very much appreciate it.) Therefore, I don't think "almost too clever, it would seem" is a grammatically complete sentence, but I'm starting to doubt myself and wondering whether I should rewrite it like this:

"He is a very clever man. Almost too clever, it would seem."

If I were to remove the middle part, I think it would be fine with just the comma.

"He is a very clever man, it would seem."

But the addition of "almost too clever" has me confused over what to do. My confusion extends to similar sentences that end with either "I believe" or "I think" preceded by a comma. For example:

"He's married to a very wealthy woman, a highly successful criminal lawyer, I believe."

What is the correct way to write sentences like this and why?

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  • Are you writing a story? If so, you can use what you like. There is no rule that you need complete sentences literature. But please note the order of words: He is a very clever man, it would seem."= It would seem he is a very clever man. Same thing.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 22:31
  • Would it help to read it as an inversion of “It would seem he is almost too clever”? Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 5:02
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    ... 'it would seem' is a pragmatic marker subclasses modal (adding a speaker-confidence-level estimate to the statement in the matrix sentence, like 'almost certainly', 'possibly', 'definitely' ) and libel-avoiding (cf 'allegedly', 'in some people's view', 'one can interpret the situation to be'). They're parentheticals, usually offset by commas (1 or 2 as required). He is, it would seem, a clever man. Single-word examples often take zero punctuation (He is allegedly a very evil man.) // Your example twins two commas of unequal weight, which is jarring. I'd replace the first with a dash. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 12:49
  • @AntonSherwood—so the inversion of my original sentence would read: "It would seem he is a very clever man, almost too clever," which is fine grammatically. Would you therefore say it's acceptable as it is?
    – JJ_Doogal
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 22:43
  • @EdwinAshworth—the twin commas of unequal weight may well have been what bothered me about the original sentence in the first place, but I couldn't quite put my finger on the issue. So, to clarify: should a pair of commas always separate the same elements of a sentence, or, in other words, should they always have the same job? So the first example is awkward because the first comma is separating the main clause from the appositive, and the second is separating the appositive from the pragmatic marker when they both should be enclosing an appositive within the main clause?
    – JJ_Doogal
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 23:14

2 Answers 2

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These seem to be categorized as discourse markers. They're a bit similar to tags except they can be inserted (sometimes awkwardly) at other points in a sentence. Like tags, they are usually joined to a complete sentence with commas. See these examples from Cambridge Dictionary:

  • He’s not a teacher, I don’t think.

  • I won’t be very late tonight, I shouldn’t imagine

But they're colloquial (being most commonly found in speech), so you can justify not having it be part of the rest of the sentence. That happens in informal writing. A lot.

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I would consider "it would seem", "I think", and "I believe" to be tag clauses (when used in the way that you mean). A tag clause is typically a short main (i.e., not subordinate) clause, and it is usually separated from the rest of the sentence by only a comma. This is perfectly grammatical and is not what people mean when they complain about comma splices.

As for the phrase "almost too clever", it could be considered an adjectival appositive, in this case in apposition to "clever". (While appositives preferably appear adjacent to their referents, they certainly do not have to do so.)

You seem to have used a nominal appositive (the much more common kind of appositive) in your last example sentence, in which "a highly successful criminal lawyer" is in apposition to "a very wealthy woman".

There are certainly other ways to describe these constructions, as well. (You alluded to "parenthetical" expressions, for example.)

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