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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Criminal Sentence 86: Three Errors in a Row

From today's paper (concerning a question about how to address an envelope):

However, there are a couple of things about this one that intrigues me.

And in the very next sentence:

Why do you say "address an envelope to my son?"

Three errors in two consecutive sentences!

1. "a couple of things... intrigues me": Watch that subject-verb agreement when you have a lot of distracting stuff between the subject and the verb!
2. "why do you say...": Oops. Comma missing after "say."
3. ... to my son?": When the whole sentence is a question, the question mark goes outside the quotation mark, as it needs to be here. When you have a complete question within quotation marks, then the question mark goes inside.

More samples concerning error 3:

Correct: She asked, "Can you believe there were three errors there?"
Correct: Did she say, "There were three errors"?


jeb said...

You say that the sentence 'Why do you say "address an envelope to my son?"' is missing the comma after say. I wonder. It's clear that the comma is needed after a speaker tag in dialog. But here is no dialogue, merely a quote of a fragment. There is a distinction. Take the sentence 'Why did you say "poodle" when you meant "dachshund"?' I really believe commas here would be wrong. Could you use your resources to check up on this? I am very curious.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

I'm looking at Chicago, 14th edition (p178), and it allows a comma in indirect dialog or imagined dialog. You can't, however, have a comma if you're paraphrasing someone, as in He said that he wasn't coming.
If anyone can find a source to tell me otherwise about the comma and "says," I'd be happy to hear about it.
Thanks, Jeb.