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The original sentence:

  1. The president of the association, spoke about how devastating it was to see something she has dedicated so much of her life to becoming unrecognizable in a matter of minutes.

Alternate sentence:

  1. The president of the association, spoke about how devastating it was to see something to which she has dedicated so much of her life, becoming unrecognizable in a matter of minutes.

I don't know which one makes more sense or how to fix the comma splice(s). Any help would be appreciated.

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    I would omit the comma in the first sentence. The second sentence has become clunky. I might also change 'becoming' to 'become', because "in a matter of minutes" suggests it was done, not ongoing. Commented Jun 16 at 19:36
  • ...on reflection, in the second sentence "to which" is better placed. In this version I would use the commas differently, such as "The president of the association spoke about how devastating it was to see something, to which she had dedicated so much of her life, become unrecognizable in a matter of minutes." Commented Jun 16 at 20:01
  • 2
    I've reöpened this hastily closed question. This is not mere proofreading because a specific concern was given per our site requirement of same.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 16 at 20:25
  • 7
    Both variants are wrongly punctuated, with a comma after the subject. This is not a comma splice, fixable by using a semicolon. Commented Jun 16 at 22:09
  • 1
    What became unrecognizable, the president or "something"?
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 17 at 14:28

4 Answers 4

22

There is no need for any commas in either sentence. A comma should not separate a subject and verb.

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    I tend to agree, but it does run on somewhat. It would be easier to read if it were completely rewritten into two sentences.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Jun 17 at 14:11
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Unless there is some specific reason to emphasize the ongoing aspect, I would prefer to see something become with a bare infinitive over the continuous version to see something becoming. That will remove the garden path that leads to a potential misparse in your first version.

In formal writing you should be careful to backshift for narratives like this; your has should backshift into had:

  1. The president of the association spoke about how devastating it was to see something to which she had dedicated so much of her life become unrecognizable in a matter of minutes.

You might also play with phrase order if doing so doesn’t result in something that sounds too outlandish:

  1. The president of the association spoke about how devastating it was to see become unrecognizable in a matter of minutes something she had dedicated so much of her life to.
  2. The president of the association spoke about how devastating it was, in a matter of minutes, to see become unrecognizable something she had dedicated so much of her life to.
  3. The president of the association spoke about how devastating it was to see become unrecognizable something she had dedicated so much of her life to in a matter of minutes.
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    2 is a bit off, IMO, because it force a re-parse of the anticipated flow. Commented Jun 16 at 20:43
  • @WeatherVane That’s what I meant about outlandishness. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 16 at 20:48
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    It is encouraging to see that you mentioned the same issues that popped up in my heads. // You removed the first comma, with which I wholeheartedly agree, but you don't mention it. // I must say the three options presented at the end still don't sound great to me: isn't a recasting in order? The president of the association spoke about her despair or shock when she saw the corruption or mutilation or destruction of something which she had dedicated so much of her life to.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jun 17 at 2:22
  • #3 seems to imply something different than the original intent—the , in a matter of minutes, should go after the become. (Plus you seem to have gotten a little mixed up in the middle of editing it, "to see become," but that's beside the point.)
    – randomhead
    Commented Jun 17 at 5:29
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It is a poor sentence. Try reading it aloud - you need to start with full lungs. How about this: "The president of the association, speaking about a topic she had dedicated much of her life to, said how devastating it was to see it becoming unrecognizable in a matter of minutes."

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Almost same wording but move the "to" to avoid it sounding like the infinitive "to become"

The president of the association spoke about how devastating it was to see something to which she has dedicated so much of her life become unrecognizable in a matter of minutes.

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