I visited my school's dwarf garden whenever I felt down (or fell down [,] in today's case). Eyes closed, I would touch my nose to the flowers and let their musky fragrance wash away my murky thoughts.

Do I need that comma there? Why or why not?

  • 1
    Such a comma isn't really a "syntactic" element - it's just a matter of reflecting an optional pause if you imagine speaking the words. If you would use that pause in speech, include a comma. If not, don't. Just be aware that some people might find it easier to parse the text with the comma present. But if you were bothered about that you could always write fell in italics (or speak the word with heavy stress), in which case they wouldn't need that extra clue to assist parsing (but it would still be your stylistic choice whether to include it). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 10 '17 at 16:23
  • 2
    @Fumble - MYTH: You should add a comma wherever you pause. Where you pause or breathe in a sentence does not reliably indicate where a comma belongs. The biggest confusion regarding commas stems from a terrible urban legend: “If you want to know where a comma goes, just put it wherever you want a pause.” In fact, one of the biggest mistakes people make is to simply place a comma wherever they want the reader to pause. – J.R. Jul 10 '17 at 22:21
  • @J.R.: We're dealing with an area where there's no real consensus (plus there's a long-term trend continually reducing the use of such punctuation marks). But the bottom line is orthography is just a crude attempt to reflect real (spoken) language, and in any context where a comma doesn't reflect a spoken pause, increasing numbers of writers won't include it, regardless of what traditionalists might think. In short, what you've written isn't MYTH - it's MYOPINION. I mean your opinion, since I obviously disagree - particularly as regards useful advice for non-native speakers. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 11 '17 at 12:11
  • @Fumble - Just to be clear, the word "myth" in all caps was in the original (as was the entirety of my comment, which was merely pasted from three websites). I agree there is little consensus – which was the whole point of my comment, to show counterarguments to what you stated. – J.R. Jul 11 '17 at 15:46

Do you mean "I visited my school's small garden because I felt down."? "in today's case" is not especially necessary. If I were you, for example, I'd say: I visited my school's small garden because I felt down. I was sad today.

"Whenever" means every time. If you use it, I visit my school's small garden whenever I feel down.

Eyes closed, I would touch my nose to the flowers and let their musky fragrance wash away my murky thoughts.

"Closing eyes,". This is called "Dangling modifier". It needs a comma like you did.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.