In my own opinion, knocked and waited are two different verbs. They share the same subject, which makes me confused about why two verbs can be joined by a comma. I think knocking is more appropriate or add "and" where comma has been used.

This is a excerpt from A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner

They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen. A deputation waited upon her,knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier.

3 Answers 3


This is what schoolteachers call a "comma splice": joining two independent clauses or predicates without a conjunction and with only a comma marking their separation.

Schoolteachers are usually very strict about forbidding comma splices, because students tend to pile up comma-spliced clauses without stopping to use conjunctions and punctuation to make the structure of their discourses clearer to readers.

But the "rule" against comma splices is only a baby rule, a pedagogical constraint intended to break bad habits. There is nothing in the actual syntax of English which prohibits this sort of joining: it's a perfectly "grammatical" practice which Real Writers are free to employ for rhythmic effect. And you don't get much Realer than William Faulkner.

  • Add "then he" after the comma to make it "no-comma-splice-compliant". And notice how without the comma splice several clauses joined that way become an obviously stylistically ugly sentence. Comma splice obscures that ugliness but doesn't remove it entirely.
    – SF.
    Jun 16, 2017 at 13:08
  • Is it suggested that I needn't to pay much attention to syntax and grammar of English when reading masterpieces.
    – Kris
    Jun 16, 2017 at 13:09
  • 1
    @繹SIMA夏目 Quite the opposite: pay attention to the masterpieces to learn the Real Syntax and Grammar of English. Jun 16, 2017 at 13:10
  • @StoneyB As a English learner, I find it difficult to understand how grammar and syntax work in the English language, especially when its grammar and syntax are so different from what I have learned from my English class. How can I overcome the obstacle of this sort?
    – Kris
    Jun 16, 2017 at 13:13
  • @繹SIMA夏目 Most of the rules you learn have some validity; and many of them are 'best practices', to be followed unless particular contexts override. On the other hand, chances are that any rule you learned in an introductory class is a 'baby rule', of limited application; and few teachers of advanced classes take the trouble to explicitly qualify their application, or abrogate them altogether. So it's pretty much up to you to figure out from experience which rules apply when. --which is how native speakers learn it, too. Jun 16, 2017 at 13:24

In spoken English, it is not uncommon to hear things like the following:

What did you do after work on Friday? That day was a scorcher!
--I drove home, turned the A/C on full blast, popped open a bottle of beer, sat down.

Notice that there are no conjunctions anywhere.

In the written version of that statement, the verbs are not being "joined by a comma". Rather, the individual clauses are being separated by commas.


William Faulkner writes whatever William Faulkner wants. If he wants to join knocked and waiting with a comma, leaving an indecipherable melange of words behind, then he will. I wouldn't worry too much about his liberties with English. Enjoy as best you can.

  • Some of his sentences are ridiculously indecipherable to understand fully and clearly.
    – Kris
    Jun 16, 2017 at 13:16
  • @繹SIMA夏目 Faulkner's language compels you to dig beneath the surface text: he was not an academic essayist but a poet, concerned to extend the expressive range of language, and a storyteller, concerned with language as a 'trace' of character and motive. I have no doubt that there are similar writers in your own native tongue. Jun 16, 2017 at 13:33

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