Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Le Matus Wrestles with Commas

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
Published November 2, 2007

My guess is that some biggy assignment person at the SPTimes told Mr. Matus to write this article on fake degrees because the editor considers Ron smart.

Making dopey mistakes when the subject is such would look ill.

Mr. Matus seems one of the smart kids in the back of the class who does well on his essay, but he has trouble with what plagues most writers: commas.

Yet experts say there are still hundreds of institutions cranking them out, and hundreds of thousands of them listed on resumes.

Matus here makes the most common comma error: superfluous comma. The comma after “out” splits a compound predicate nominative. “hundreds” and “hundreds.”

"Many state governments still allow use of fake or substandard credentials by their own employees" and many local governments are "stuffed" with them, said Alan Contreras, who heads Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization and testified on the issue before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in 2004.

The easiest comma rule is the two-independent-clauses rule. Here Matus misses it: a comma follows “employees” inside the quotation marks at the end of the first independent clause.

In an initial interview, McNeil said he couldn't remember the names of any classes or instructors, or whether he wrote a master's thesis.

The comma after “instructors” is redundant. It splits compound direct-object noun clauses of “said”: “said [that] he couldn’t remember…” or “whether he wrote…”

Since the department requires academic degrees for some promotions and pay raises, "we better make sure it's a legitimate degree," Slapp said.

The beginning of a quoted sentence gets a capital.

I can't keep the text from blowing up this way below. Commas I know. Graphics are a mystery.

CHEA thinks states can do more. In a letter to all 50 governors earlier this year, the organization offered its help in crafting state laws, and cited a federal bill filed by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, as a model. Substandard degrees everywhere

The comma after “laws” is redundant: it splits a compound verb: “offered” and “cited.”

Verification is lax, particularly in public sector jobs.

The comma after “lax” is redundant: it cuts off a restrictive adverbial prepositional phrase modifying the predicate adjective “lax.”

That his boss makes worse errors below may assuage Mr. Matus's ego. From the looks of Mr. Tash's essay, one would infer that inferior writing skills lead to the top in the newspaper racket. ldd


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