Ignoring Commas from Authors

Some grammar rules (and embarrassing mistakes!) transcend the uniqueness of different regions and style guides. This new International Grammar section by OnlineBookClub.org ultimately identifies those rules thus providing a simple, flexible rule-set, respecting the differences between regions and style guides. You can feel free to ask general questions about spelling and grammar. You can also provide example sentences for other members to proofread and inform you of any grammar mistakes.

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Shirley Ann Riddern Labzentis
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Ignoring Commas from Authors

Post by Shirley Ann Riddern Labzentis »

The last three books that I have read have had a plethora of missing commas. So much so that I would have taken up a whole legal pad of notes if I had marked them all down. However, we are told that the commas are subjective, and we shouldn't count them as errors from the authors. If commas are subjective, then why when I submit my reviews, am I penalized for every little comma that I miss? Why aren't we given the same consideration as the authors?
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Post by Claudia Angelucci »

Shirley Ann Riddern Labzentis wrote: 31 May 2024, 08:44 The last three books that I have read have had a plethora of missing commas. So much so that I would have taken up a whole legal pad of notes if I had marked them all down. However, we are told that the commas are subjective, and we shouldn't count them as errors from the authors. If commas are subjective, then why when I submit my reviews, am I penalized for every little comma that I miss? Why aren't we given the same consideration as the authors?
Exactly. When I first started, I thought we had to judge errors in the book the same way the editors judged our reviews. So, I was noting all the commas. Until an author/publisher came back to me via a moderator, saying that some of the errors I had counted were arbitrary. At first, I said they were mistaken, but then two moderators came back to me saying they were right: comma mistakes are subjective. So I reduced the number of mistakes from more than 10 to 6, but they kept coming back until there were 2 counted mistakes left that were proper typos. The moderator agreed with me that these were indeed objective mistakes.

However, I keep having editors deduct points for missing commas, among other things, splitting hairs, you could say. I must have done about 60 reviews. If I tell you, probably 50 were sent back to the editors, and probably half of the time I had to ask an administrator. Out of those, let's say 25 times, just twice did the admin agree with the editor! However, I have an administrator recheck that I used today, so now I am waiting! :roll2:
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Alissa Nesson
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Post by Alissa Nesson »

I have often wondered why we aren’t given the same consideration that we’re asked to give the authors. Unfortunately, support isn’t very helpful, so there’s really no one to ask. It is actually written on the editor page to be careful about alleged comma errors because they are usually subjective, but unless you submit an admin recheck there’s really no one to enforce this. Editors aren’t given any special training and it’s just as hard to navigate things as a new editor as it is to do so as a new reviewer. With so much staff on this site, I just don’t understand why things don’t improve. But I do suggest not writing down comma errors in a book unless you list them as uncounted errors. I’ve done this to make suggestions about commas and other things that aren’t objective errors without penalizing the author for them. Good luck!
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Post by Kansas City Teacher »

Hello - I just wanted to say that not all commas are subjective. Most notably, we do not count commas after short introductory phrases as errors. This is because the rule is that commas aren't required after short introductory phrases, and the term "short" is subjective. So we don't count those as errors. There are other instances where the commas are subjective, but there are others where it's not subjective. I'm not sure which commas you're talking about, but if you give an example, maybe I shed more light on this...
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Claudia Angelucci
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Post by Claudia Angelucci »

Kansas City Teacher wrote: 05 Jun 2024, 00:31 Hello - I just wanted to say that not all commas are subjective. Most notably, we do not count commas after short introductory phrases as errors. This is because the rule is that commas aren't required after short introductory phrases, and the term "short" is subjective. So we don't count those as errors. There are other instances where the commas are subjective, but there are others where it's not subjective. I'm not sure which commas you're talking about, but if you give an example, maybe I shed more light on this...
Thank you very much. Indeed, not all comma placements are subjective. In my case, I identified the following errors in the book I was reading, which I considered mistakes. However, the author or publisher, and later two moderators, told me that the following were not objective mistakes:

“How is the university treating you my young friend?”
“How is the university treating you, my young friend?”

“What happened?” Philip asked wanting to know more, “Did it work?”
“What happened?” Philip asked, wanting to know more, “Did it work?”

“What do you mean?” Philip asked looking confused.
“What do you mean?” Philip asked, looking confused.

At first his father had seemed concerned that his son was simply missing out in not attending the Science Ball and his father was merely giving him parental encouragement.
At first, his father had seemed concerned that his son was simply missing out in not attending the Science Ball and his father was merely giving him parental encouragement.

“Then what happened?” Philip asked wondering how much was real and how much was conjecture.
“Then what happened?” Philip asked, wondering how much was real and how much was conjecture.

“I hear you had some success in getting a hung jury in your murder trial,” Father Dom said changing the subject.
“I hear you had some success in getting a hung jury in your murder trial,” Father Dom said, changing the subject.

I have numerous examples of editors wrongly pointing out comma mistakes in my reviews. However, I will provide one specific example. This sentence was marked as incorrect by both the editor and the administrator:

- "Despite her desperation and resilience, she remains generously kind(,) and compassionate."

I believe the comma is unnecessary here. Both the editor and the administrator claim that without the comma, my sentence is grammatically incorrect. However, I respectfully disagree. The comma before "and" is optional, depending on the intended emphasis and clarity. The sentence is still grammatically correct without it, in my opinion.

Thank you again, and I really value your opinion on this.
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Post by Kansas City Teacher »

Which one of the sentences is yours? And which one is the correction given by the author/publisher/moderator?
“How is the university treating you my young friend?”
“How is the university treating you, my young friend?”
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Post by Claudia Angelucci »

Thank you.
The first sentence is the original from the book, followed by my correction.

**Original (from the book):** “How is the university treating you my young friend?”
**My correction:** “How is the university treating you, my young friend?”

**Original (from the book):** “Then what happened?” Philip asked wondering how much was real and how much was conjecture.
**My correction:** “Then what happened?” Philip asked, wondering how much was real and how much was conjecture.
[This was a dispute with an author or publisher, who claimed these were subjective mistakes. Two moderators agreed with them.]

The second example I provided in the other post involved the editor and administrator with this sentence in my review:
"Despite her desperation and resilience, she remains generously kind and compassionate." (my sentence)

"Despite her desperation and resilience, she remains generously kind, and compassionate." (the editor and administrator's correction)
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Post by Kansas City Teacher »

I see. Those do seem debatable....
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Post by Claudia Angelucci »

Kansas City Teacher wrote: 11 Jun 2024, 21:59 I see. Those do seem debatable....
Thank you.

Firstly, I would like to clarify that this is not a complaint but rather an observation and a suggestion for finding a solution. I believe other reviewers might have faced similar issues.

As an administrator and teacher, you noted that these errors seem debatable and are not certain if they are indeed mistakes. Am I correct in understanding this?

The sentence in the book "How is the university treating you my young friend?" is incorrect because it lacks a comma before the vocative "my young friend." This use of a comma before the vocative is a standard grammatical rule to clearly indicate direct address. While this sentence appears within dialogue and can be marked as a subjective error, as a teacher, would you not consider this a mistake if it were in a student's work?

Regarding my sentence in my review: "Despite her desperation and resilience, she remains generously kind and compassionate." According to an editor, supported by an administrator, this was deemed an objective mistake. However, this sentence is not grammatically incorrect and does not require a comma before "and." Whether to include a comma before "and" may depend on style preferences or specific style guides being followed. From a grammatical standpoint, the sentence is correct without the comma before "and." May I kindly ask for your perspective on this matter, as you are also an administrator?

This issue has cost me points, an editor recheck, and an administrator recheck, which I feel is unfair. This also affects my level and opportunity. I have a very high score for the quality of my reviews, more than 90%. However, I have to fight with nearly every single editor. The administrators have sided with me most of the time. This takes a lot of extra time, considering that now I can only pick books to review for $6, or $25 if I spend about £10 (British pounds, approximately $12.50) on the book. As an avid reader and dedicated reviewer, I read the books I review very carefully and put significant effort into crafting my reviews. I proofread my work meticulously and respect the authors' hard work. While I am not a writer, I understand and deeply appreciate the effort and emotional energy it takes to produce a book.

Thank you again. I'd really appreciate your thoughts and help on this. I apologize if I rambled on a bit, but as I mentioned, this is not a complaint. I understand that this is a large site with millions of users, and things can get complicated.
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Post by Kansas City Teacher »

Hi,
I will comment on the examples you gave above. Please read the comments at the bottom also, as I have an idea of what could have happened.

1.
"*Original (from the book):** “How is the university treating you my young friend?”
**My correction:** “How is the university treating you, my young friend?”
Comment: The first sentence above is an error. This is a direct address; it's the same as if a name were there instead of "my young friend." The sentence should read, "How is the university treating you, my young friend?" This is an error even though it's inside dialogue in this case, as there is not evidence of regional dialects or anything like that. It appears to be a common grammar error.
________
2.
**Original (from the book):** “Then what happened?” Philip asked wondering how much was real and how much was conjecture.
**My correction:** “Then what happened?” Philip asked, wondering how much was real and how much was conjecture.
[This was a dispute with an author or publisher, who claimed these were subjective mistakes. Two moderators agreed with them.]
Comment: Your correction is correct; the first sentence has an error and is missing a comma. Without the comma, the sentence is confusing.
_________

3. The second example I provided in the other post involved the editor and administrator with this sentence in my review:
"Despite her desperation and resilience, she remains generously kind and compassionate." (my sentence)

"Despite her desperation and resilience, she remains generously kind, and compassionate." (the editor and administrator's correction)
Comment: The editor likely misread the sentence and thought "generously" was "generous" and that this was a list. Even so, it still would not require a comma, as using/not using the Oxford comma is not counted as an error. I'm not sure why this was not caught by an admin.

For the first two, it sounds like the author disputed them. When this happens, a moderator has only a few (3?) choices. They can say that the author is right, that some of the errors are subjective and warn the reviewer. They can say that ALL the errors are errors. Or, they can say that the author is right and ban the reviewer. It sounds like they chose the first option. Were there other errors that were subjective that you didn't list in this thread? If there were any at all that were subjective in your list of errors, the moderator would have to say the author is right. There is no way of saying the author is right without giving you a warning. It's automatic.

The last error I commented on was a bad call all the way around. From what you wrote in this thread, you were right. I agree that this is not fair that you lost your recheck.
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Post by Claudia Angelucci »

Kansas City Teacher wrote: 12 Jun 2024, 22:40 Hi,
I will comment on the examples you gave above. Please read the comments at the bottom also, as I have an idea of what could have happened.

1.
"*Original (from the book):** “How is the university treating you my young friend?”
**My correction:** “How is the university treating you, my young friend?”
Comment: The first sentence above is an error. This is a direct address; it's the same as if a name were there instead of "my young friend." The sentence should read, "How is the university treating you, my young friend?" This is an error even though it's inside dialogue in this case, as there is not evidence of regional dialects or anything like that. It appears to be a common grammar error.
________
2.
**Original (from the book):** “Then what happened?” Philip asked wondering how much was real and how much was conjecture.
**My correction:** “Then what happened?” Philip asked, wondering how much was real and how much was conjecture.
[This was a dispute with an author or publisher, who claimed these were subjective mistakes. Two moderators agreed with them.]
Comment: Your correction is correct; the first sentence has an error and is missing a comma. Without the comma, the sentence is confusing.
_________

3. The second example I provided in the other post involved the editor and administrator with this sentence in my review:
"Despite her desperation and resilience, she remains generously kind and compassionate." (my sentence)

"Despite her desperation and resilience, she remains generously kind, and compassionate." (the editor and administrator's correction)
Comment: The editor likely misread the sentence and thought "generously" was "generous" and that this was a list. Even so, it still would not require a comma, as using/not using the Oxford comma is not counted as an error. I'm not sure why this was not caught by an admin.

For the first two, it sounds like the author disputed them. When this happens, a moderator has only a few (3?) choices. They can say that the author is right, that some of the errors are subjective and warn the reviewer. They can say that ALL the errors are errors. Or, they can say that the author is right and ban the reviewer. It sounds like they chose the first option. Were there other errors that were subjective that you didn't list in this thread? If there were any at all that were subjective in your list of errors, the moderator would have to say the author is right. There is no way of saying the author is right without giving you a warning. It's automatic.

The last error I commented on was a bad call all the way around. From what you wrote in this thread, you were right. I agree that this is not fair that you lost your recheck.
Thank you very much; I really appreciate your help.

I agree the moderators probably made that choice. After the two moderators agreed with the author, I corrected the list and marked some of the errors as uncounted. However, this wasn't enough; they kept saying the same thing. So, in the end, I left two objective typos as factual mistakes and marked all the others as uncounted (including the two examples of objective errors I gave you). Surprisingly, the author or publisher came back saying these two typos were also subjective! However, I insisted they were wrong, and the moderator eventually agreed with me.

Mind you, this is just one example. I had another negative incident involving a similar typo dispute. In this case, I identified five factual grammatical mistakes. Each mistake was clearly listed with page numbers, the original sentences, and the corrected versions. Despite this thorough documentation, the experience was bizarre. These were five objective, indisputable errors, which I won't detail here because, in the end, a moderator agreed they were indeed mistakes. However, the author initially wrote me a polite message thanking me for the mistakes I "believed" I found in their book and stated they would pass my notes to their editor, proofreader, and formatting expert. I understand that the author had likely invested a lot of money in these professionals and might have been puzzled that a $10 reviewer could spot five errors that these experts, including the author, missed. This was understandable and respectful. Still, I was surprised that the author used the word "believe" and couldn't recognize these indisputable errors that the professionals had overlooked. What was really surprising was the behavior of the first moderator. Instead of acknowledging these as objective mistakes, the moderator selected the option: "The reviewer's notes are insufficient for me to tell whether the alleged errors are actually errors." They then sent me this message: "Please explain in detail why you think that the errors you noted are actually objective grammatical errors."

This left me gobsmacked. As I mentioned, all the errors were clearly listed and undeniably actual errors. Imagine reading a 250-plus-page book very carefully, taking meticulous notes, writing the review carefully, and listing all the errors precisely, only to be asked to explain why factual errors are errors. Being asked to justify obvious errors "in detail" was frustrating, and I wasn't willing to do that. I had already invested considerable time in this matter for my $10! I stood my ground, asserting that I was right and they were wrong. The second moderator completely agreed with me.

While this might sound negative, as I said, I am not complaining. We are all human and make mistakes. No one forced me to read a book, take notes, review it, spend time discussing it with editors, and often write another short review for Amazon or Goodreads for around $10. It was my choice. I did it with the impression that I could work my way up to better-paid reviews. I reached level 4 and had better opportunities, but now I'm back to level 3 and $6 reviews, which I am not going to select. I will wait and see if something better comes along. It is understandable why some reviewers might quit or get really upset.

Overall, my experience with the site was positive. However, I have significant reservations about the editors and the scorecard system.

I am not interested in getting my points back or having an editor recheck. My concern is with the administrator recheck, as I am now left with only one.

Thank you once again.
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