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What happened to the full stop?
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
May 8

This seems to me to be a very recent phenomenon, it is particularly noticeable in these forms, it is a tendency to use a comma where a full stop (period) would be more appropriate, I don't know where it came from, can it please stop?

Vanda Nissen
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:20
Member (2018)
French to English
. May 8

The run-on sentence has been around for ages and is currently enjoying a boom in several languages, both of my pair are affected.
I would say it reflects our thought processes. Just as the upward inflection ending an affirmative statement is shorthand for ", you know what I mean?", the run-on sentence tellingly reflects how people no longer pause for thought. It may convey a fear of interruption in speech. When written, it may convey the fact that all parts of the sentence are dealing wit
... See more
The run-on sentence has been around for ages and is currently enjoying a boom in several languages, both of my pair are affected.
I would say it reflects our thought processes. Just as the upward inflection ending an affirmative statement is shorthand for ", you know what I mean?", the run-on sentence tellingly reflects how people no longer pause for thought. It may convey a fear of interruption in speech. When written, it may convey the fact that all parts of the sentence are dealing with the same thought process, or that the writer is spilling out their thoughts willy-nilly, without thinking anything through first.
I'm pretty sure it's an improvement on putting ", like," all over the place as a way to avoid interruption.
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:20
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Tom May 8

Tom in London wrote:
This seems to me to be a very recent phenomenon, it is particularly noticeable in these forms, it is a tendency to use a comma where a full stop (period) would be more appropriate, I don't know where it came from, can it please stop?


Yes, apparently the fullstop is considered by the modern twittering generation to be too abrupt. It is said to represents a pause in speech that is longer than the pause modern people make between sentences. What is odd, though, is that these same modern writers don't insert "uhm" everywhere.


Tom in London
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
that's an example May 8

Kay Denney wrote:

The run-on sentence has been around for ages and is currently enjoying a boom in several languages, both of my pair are affected.


Andy Watkinson
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:20
Member (2018)
French to English
I was following the one you set May 8

Tom in London wrote:

This seems to me to be a very recent phenomenon, it is particularly noticeable in these forms, it is a tendency to use a comma where a full stop (period) would be more appropriate, I don't know where it came from, can it please stop?


Dan Lucas
Andy Watkinson
 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Member (2012)
French to English
Comma splices and run-on sentences May 8

A comma splice occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined together by a comma, whereas a run-on sentence occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined without any punctuation or conjunctions.

Trends in punctuation can change, but there is really no excuse for either of the above.


Tom in London
IanDhu
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks May 8

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

A comma splice occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined together by a comma, whereas a run-on sentence occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined without any punctuation or conjunctions.

Trends in punctuation can change, but there is really no excuse for either of the above.


Thanks, Elizabeth; that's interesting. And perhaps the new semi-illiteracy could be countered by teaching people the value of conjunctions such as "but", "and", "whereas" etc.


Elizabeth Tamblin
 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 06:20
Chinese to English
What is a sentence? May 8

Run-on sentences are a perennial issue, and I'm sure they come and go in waves. The sentence in English is an interesting issue, though, because there isn't really any rule that tells you exactly how long or short they should be. I run into this issue all the time, because Chinese sentences are a naturally longer unit: in terms of sense, a Chinese sentence often has a level of information and organization that in English we would associate with a paragraph.

(There's a sub-issue tha
... See more
Run-on sentences are a perennial issue, and I'm sure they come and go in waves. The sentence in English is an interesting issue, though, because there isn't really any rule that tells you exactly how long or short they should be. I run into this issue all the time, because Chinese sentences are a naturally longer unit: in terms of sense, a Chinese sentence often has a level of information and organization that in English we would associate with a paragraph.

(There's a sub-issue that being a translator slightly predisposes us towards shorter sentences, I think, because it's just naturally harder to create a five-clause sentence that exactly fits the source than it is to create a one-clause sentence that fits the source.)

So while a run-on sentence is definitely an error in English writing, I regard it as quite an arbitrary rule. Annoying, though. It's one of those things that marks out inexperienced (or poor) writers, and is often accompanied by genuinely bad writing. If there were a piece of good writing with the occasional run-on sentence in there, I think we'd barely notice them. It's an error on the same level as spelling mistakes.

Shameless self-promotion: I wrote about run-on sentences as part of my master's thesis: https://www.academia.edu/7259958/Run-on_sentences_and_metaphor_in_Chinese_political_rhetoric
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Tom in London
Hedwig Spitzer Cáceres
Dan Lucas
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
...yes, and very common May 8

Phil Hand wrote:

It's an error on the same level as spelling mistakes.


Yes, and very common (and not only in English).


 

Daryo
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Serbian to English
+ ...
A feature, not a bug, May 8

given that as far as I can see: short sentences are there to pander to low attention span, to those who can't read a longer sentence without losing track of what was at the beginning of it, and/or who get terminally derailed from the main thread of the sentence if imbricated clauses happen to wander in it - not to mention the possible horror show of further sub-imbricated sub-clauses; all this not being in the slightest contradictory to one of my favourite contention regarding one the best metri... See more
given that as far as I can see: short sentences are there to pander to low attention span, to those who can't read a longer sentence without losing track of what was at the beginning of it, and/or who get terminally derailed from the main thread of the sentence if imbricated clauses happen to wander in it - not to mention the possible horror show of further sub-imbricated sub-clauses; all this not being in the slightest contradictory to one of my favourite contention regarding one the best metrics for a good translation i.e. that a shorter translation (not because of being more difficult to produce ...) is in principle better than a longer one - as long as no meaning was hurt in the making of it!

Almost forgot, this was about using a full stop - so here is one.
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Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 08:20
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
It is a very interesting observation, Tom May 8

I think, Samuel is right - it could be caused by the social media. My son, who is 13, has a tendency to write very lengthy sentences. He is not really fond of full stops. Before this thread, I was actually thinking that he has inherited it from me:) - in Russian, sentences are generally longer.

 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 23:20
English to Italian
+ ...
Yes, this needs to be (fully) stopped May 9

OK, I updated the list of rules for better writing accordingly. Here's the new release:

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however releva
... See more
OK, I updated the list of rules for better writing accordingly. Here's the new release:

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be ignored.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
23. Kill all exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.
26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
27. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
28. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times. Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million uses it correctly.
29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
31. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
32. Who needs rhetorical questions?
33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

NEW ENTRY
34. Use full stops when appropriate, don't abuse commas.

We're safe now.
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Natasha Ziada
Catherine Howard
Pete in Finland
Michele Fauble
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:20
Member (2018)
French to English
. May 9

In French too, sentences can easily run on for three lines of text. Out of interest, I just counted the full stops in the file I just handed in: the French text had 26 and my translation of it had 49. I practically cut every sentence in two!
There may have been some suspension points in the French too, which sometimes seem to be one character and sometime three separate little dots... It's a very lazy way of ending a list in French and basically means "there could be more but I can't be bo
... See more
In French too, sentences can easily run on for three lines of text. Out of interest, I just counted the full stops in the file I just handed in: the French text had 26 and my translation of it had 49. I practically cut every sentence in two!
There may have been some suspension points in the French too, which sometimes seem to be one character and sometime three separate little dots... It's a very lazy way of ending a list in French and basically means "there could be more but I can't be bothered to check and anyway, it's good to hint that there might be more even if there isn't".
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Jessica Noyes
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:20
Member (2018)
French to English
. May 9

Daniel Frisano wrote:

OK, I updated the list of rules for better writing accordingly. Here's the new release:

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be ignored.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
23. Kill all exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.
26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
27. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
28. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times. Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million uses it correctly.
29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
31. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
32. Who needs rhetorical questions?
33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

NEW ENTRY
34. Use full stops when appropriate, don't abuse commas.

We're safe now.

But as a pre-emptive measure could we introduce this one before English gets infected with it?
35. End your sentences properly...


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 06:20
Chinese to English
Interesting! May 9

Kay Denney wrote:

In French too, sentences can easily run on for three lines of text. Out of interest, I just counted the full stops in the file I just handed in: the French text had 26 and my translation of it had 49. I practically cut every sentence in two!
There may have been some suspension points in the French too, which sometimes seem to be one character and sometime three separate little dots... It's a very lazy way of ending a list in French and basically means "there could be more but I can't be bothered to check and anyway, it's good to hint that there might be more even if there isn't".


It's fascinating that you find the same phenomena in French as I find in Chinese. There's a particular character, 等 (deng) that goes at the end of lists in Chinese, whether they are complete or not, and has the same function as the ellipsis mark you refer to.

So now I'm wondering, do we discover the same issues (long sentences, ambiguous/lazy handling of lists) because:
English is particularly rigorous on these issues?
Because both French and Chinese are similar in these respects? (Seems unlikely, prima facie!)
Is it because we as translators apply high levels of rigour in our reading of texts?
Or is it because the translation process disposes us to create shorter sentences?

The next time I find myself flush with money and time (due when that cold front hits hell...) I'll make this my next research project.


 
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