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THE SENTENCE AS A UNIT. — PUNCTUATION
30. The Sentence. The first two facts to fix in mind about the sentence are these:
1. A sentence is the expression in words of a complete thought - whether a statement, command, question, or exclamation.
2. Every sentence should have a subject and a predicate. This is another way of saying that (1) the sentence, like the composition or the paragraph, should be a unit; (2) its expression should be grammatically complete. A later chapter contains a thorough review of grammar, but at this point we shall recall enough to allow us to study sentences and their punctuation as an aid in the expression of written thoughts.
31. Three Forms of Sentences. We should keep in mind what we have learned from the grammars about the three forms of sentences:
1. A simple sentence contains but one subject and one predicate.
The boy caught the ball.
A distinguished visitor is in our country.
NOTE 1. The subject of a sentence may be compound.
The boy has caught the ball and is throwing it.
2. A compound sentence consists of two or more main clauses. These clauses are said to be coördinate, that is, of equal rank. (It will be remembered that a clause is a group of words which contains a subject and a predicate. A main, or independent, clause is defined on pp. 174175.)
Mary came early, but she did not stay long.
A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
3. A complex sentence consists of a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.1
If you go, I shall go.
Since he is here, you may ask him.
He came because he thought he could see you.
NOTE 1. Parts of a compound sentence may be complex.
He is here, but he is so busy that he cannot see you. (One part simple.)
You cannot have what you like, but you can like what you have. (Both parts complex.)
NOTE 2. The subordinate clause of a complex sentence may be compound.
His employers recommend him because they know his worth and because they will be glad to see him promoted.
93. Copy from other chapters of this book three complex sentences; add to these three complex sentences which you have thought out.
94. Write (1) a compound sentence in which one part is complex; (2) a compound sentence in which two parts are complex; (3) a complex sentence in which the subordinate clause is compound.
1 For a more detailed study of the parts of sentences see Chapter IX.
95. Be ready to talk on "The Sentence," noting the general definition (see sect. 30) and the particular definitions (see sect. 31) of (1) simple, (2) compound, and (3) complex sentences. Illustrate your talk by the use of original examples.
32. Punctuation. Punctuation is a matter of courtesy; if we are polite, we shall see to it that the reader has all the aid that the most careful punctuation can give. It is also a matter of great practical value; failure to insert a comma or a semicolon in a will may make a difference of thousands of dollars to an heir. Defective punctuation may make a law of no effect.
33. The Period. As soon as we express a complete thought, we are to let the reader know that he has reached the end of the sentence. In talking we show by a pause when we come to the end of a thought, but in writing we often leave one thought unfinished in our haste to say something else. We must therefore take pains to set off by themselves the words which compose each thought. Every sentence should begin with a capital, and should end with some punctuation mark. The period, the interrogation point, and the exclamation point may stand at the end of a sentence, but the period is the mark most often used.
I. A period should stand at the end of every declarative or imperative sentence. If, however, a declarative or imperative sentence is exclamatory, an exclamation point may be used instead of a period.
II. A period should follow every abbreviation.
Cal., Me., Mr., Rev., Oct.
III. The period should separate a number or a heading from the words which follow. See, for example, the section headings and numbers in this book. Both the colon and the
dash are sometimes used for this purpose, but the period is preferable. Periods were formerly inserted after centered headings of every kind, but good style now sanctions their omission.
96. Copy the following selections, inserting periods and capitals wherever they belong:
1. To-day I went to the circus the tents were all up, and in one of them I saw some elephants the cooks were getting supper ready.
2. My cousin sent me a letter from the Philippines, where he is with his company he told me that on his way to the islands they encountered a heavy storm, which carried them nearly to Japan the ship was wrecked, and they lost all their food, clothing, and personal property.
3. Years afterwards, the knowledge gained stood me in good stead in clearing up another mystery it was in a lumber camp - always a superstitious place - in the heart of a Canada forest I had followed a wandering herd of caribou too far one day, and late in the afternoon found myself alone at a river, some twenty miles from my camp, on the edge of the barren grounds somewhere above me I knew that a crew of lumbermen were at work; so I headed up river to find their camp, if possible, and avoid sleeping out in the snow and bitter cold it was long after dark, and the moon was flooding forest and river with a wonderful light, when I at last caught sight of the camp the click of my snowshoes brought a dozen big men to the door at that moment I felt, rather than saw, that they seemed troubled and alarmed at seeing me alone; but I was too tired to notice, and no words save those of welcome were spoken until I had eaten heartily then, as I started out for another look at the wild beauty of the place under the moonlight, a lumberman followed and touched me on the shoulder.
97. Write about something that you saw happen. Do your writing as rapidly as you please. Before copying your work, revise it to see that (a) every sentence has a subject and a predi
cate, and that (b) every sentence begins with a capital, and if declarative, ends with a period.
NOTE. Since some young writers run on breathlessly from one sentence to another without thought of periods, every pupil should be sure that he does not crowd too much into one sentence. It is well at first to have one's sentences short rather than long.
34. The Interrogation Point. The interrogation point needs careful consideration, for there is a general tendency in certain kinds of questions to substitute the period. For instance, a request is often put in the form of a question to make it seem unlike a demand, but the sentence requires the interrogation point, not the period. For example :
May I be excused during the second period to make up some work in history with Mr. Eddy?
Will you kindly notify the committee at once if you cannot be present, since definite arrangements should be made with the caterer?
IV. An interrogation point should follow every direct question, but is not required after an indirect question.
Did you recognize me?
You could not see?
"Did you see that robin?" asked Mary.
He asked who was ready to go.
Will you please hand me that book?
98. Write a note to your teacher, asking a favor in a declarative sentence. Write another note, asking the same favor in an interrogative sentence; then rewrite your interrogative sentence, turning it into an indirect question.
35. The Exclamation Point.
Much of the value of the exclamation point lies in its infrequent use, and young writers should be careful not to overwork it.