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Puddle Jumper
05-19-2006, 06:18 AM
I often find in writing that I want to put two words next to each other, like "is is." However spell and grammar check hate that and immediately mark it as an error.

For example...

"What it is is a pony." or "What it is, is a pony." (I'm not sure if there shoudl be a comma there or not.)

And I think I've done the same with words other than is in a similar situation.

Is that wrong and if so, how should I correct it?

unthoughtknown
05-19-2006, 06:21 AM
I personally don't like it. Even "that that" is one that I don't use literally.

I would just write: "It's a pony."

;-)

poetinahat
05-19-2006, 06:31 AM
I agree with jen. I'd recommend finding a better way to construct the sentence and avoid the issue entirely.

That issue aside, I don't think a comma belongs there. It wouldn't make sense to write "He, is a policeman." or "The woman I met today, thought I was crazy."

There might be some who say you can put a comma wherever you want to indicate a pause in speech -- maybe it's a literary technique with which I'm not familiar. But in my opinion, it's incorrect.

Good luck!

unthoughtknown
05-19-2006, 06:33 AM
Hey Rob, whenever I do see it in fiction -- which is rare, there is no comma...

reph
05-19-2006, 06:34 AM
"What it is, is a pony" may be the best way to say what you mean or to have a character say what she means if that's her habitual way of speaking. I wouldn't object, especially in dialogue. People in real life do talk that way.

Puddle Jumper
05-19-2006, 06:37 AM
I personally don't like it. Even "that that" is one that I don't use literally.

I would just write: "It's a pony."

;-)


That issue aside, I don't think a comma belongs there. It wouldn't make sense to write "He, is a policeman." or "The woman I met today, thought I was crazy."

That's probably correct, however I hear it used in speech a lot. "What it is is..." So it might have a place in the language of a character when they are speaking. So probably no on the comma? So I should probably phrase it like you did if the character is not speaking. It think I speak like that quite a bit. :tongue

Puddle Jumper
05-19-2006, 06:38 AM
"What it is, is a pony" may be the best way to say what you mean or to have a character say what she means if that's her habitual way of speaking. I wouldn't object, especially in dialogue. People in real life do talk that way.
So that's two votes for no comma and one vote for a comma.

poetinahat
05-19-2006, 07:09 AM
Don't mind me - being a poet (give me the benefit of the doubt here!), I should be more concerned with the effect of syntax rather than itscorrectness.

With that in mind, if the comma gives you the feel of how the character talks, then put it in. You might try writing it, looking at it, then reading it aloud. (Forgive me if I'm telling you things you already know.)

Will you post with your final decision?

unthoughtknown
05-19-2006, 07:18 AM
Dialogue is another story, yes. If the pause is needed, then you'll need the comma.

If your character was thinking heavily as he was saying it, you could even do something like: "So, what it is ... is uh ... a pony -- yes! A pony!"

Whichever reads the best way...

reph
05-19-2006, 07:19 AM
The comma is correct.

There might be other times when you could put the same word twice in succession. "If the dog wants to be fed, fed he shall be."

Don't worry about the grammar checker. It's probably going after people who typed a word twice by mistake.

unthoughtknown
05-19-2006, 07:19 AM
I'm not telling it how it is btw. Just saying how I would handle it...

poetinahat
05-19-2006, 07:22 AM
The comma is correct.

"What it is, is a pony." This comma is correct? Please tell us more.

Puddle Jumper
05-19-2006, 07:42 AM
The comma looks correct to me. Not sure why I think that.

reph
05-19-2006, 07:45 AM
Chicago Manual, 12th ed., sec. 5.52:


For ease of reading, it is sometimes desirable to separate two identical or closely related words with a comma, even though the sense or grammatical construction does not require such separation:


Let us march in, in twos.

Whatever is, is good.

But: He gave his life that that cause might prevail.

Puddle Jumper
05-19-2006, 07:54 AM
Chicago Manual, 12th ed., sec. 5.52:


For ease of reading, it is sometimes desirable to separate two identical or closely related words with a comma, even though the sense or grammatical construction does not require such separation:


Let us march in, in twos.

Whatever is, is good.

But: He gave his life that that cause might prevail.

Why is that last one an exception to the rule?

unthoughtknown
05-19-2006, 07:59 AM
One way to help you to understand the exception is if you say it aloud; say it with a comma after the first 'that' and you'll hear the difference.

reph
05-19-2006, 08:05 AM
Why is that last one an exception to the rule?It isn't, really. The real rule says not to use a comma in certain places. You make an exception when you have a sentence like "What this is, is the biggest traffic jam I've ever seen." For the last sentence, you don't make an exception. "That, that" just wouldn't work. "He gave his life that" now pause. It's a bad place to pause, right?

Puddle Jumper
05-19-2006, 08:07 AM
It does sound funky if you pause between the two that's.

Puddle Jumper
05-19-2006, 08:22 AM
Here's another example. In another thread just now I wrote, "I think that's the best way." Which can also be written, "I think that is the best way." However I was tempted to write, "I think that that is the best way." The additional that would seem redundant and unnecessary but again it's how people talk. And I agree that in that kind of sentence a comma would not work.

reph
05-19-2006, 09:06 AM
Most people I hear wouldn't say "I think that that is the best way." They'd leave out the first "that." In an informal situation, they'd use "that's."

Lyra Jean
05-19-2006, 09:38 AM
I use that that all the time when I'm talking. I find myself annoyed by it. If I can only stop.

poetinahat
05-19-2006, 09:55 AM
The one that really grinds my gherkin is when people say something like

"The problem is, is that we don't have enough time."

SeanDSchaffer
05-19-2006, 10:56 AM
I generally use a comma after the first 'is', for two reasons. The first is that I want the reader to realize that I have put the two 'is's there in succession for a reason. The second is for the grammar and spelling check on my word processor.

Actually, there is a third reason. As I have learned how to shut off the grammar and spelling checker on my word processor, I find that I still use a comma there, out of simple habit.

In any case, I think it looks better, is easier to read, and just makes good sense to put a comma after the first 'is'....provided there isn't a better way to write the sentence in the first place, that comes to my mind before I put it down on paper.


ETA:
One other thing to think about with this, is the mechanics of the sentence. One of the ways that I use to decide if a sentence's structure is good, is by sounding it out. With the 'is is' versus 'is, is' debate, I find that the sentence sounds more natural with a pause between the 'is's. Because of the need in my own mind for a pause there, I think that a comma after the first 'is', is a needed punctuation.

Jamesaritchie
05-19-2006, 12:56 PM
The comma is correct. Or so I was taught in various college English classes.

"That that" is merely a sentence that needs editing. The first that is not needed, and simply shouldn't be there.

Warren
05-20-2006, 07:38 AM
"I'll tell you what I think, Miss Talbot," he said, ignoring the paper in her hand, "and what it is, is that rest period is over! Your job at hand is not to question the reports coming cross your desk. It is to key them onto Hollerith cards. Is that understood? Get back to work!"

The above is,is comes from one of my manuscripts. I agonized over this. I submitted it to peer review and got three roughly equal responses:

1. Restructure the sentence.
2. is is
3. is, is

Option 1 is not an option. It's dialog, and the speaker is a bully of an RA Officer, speaking down to a lowly civilian.

Options 2 and 3 were settled by my paying $75 and $100 for two professional opinons from copy editors, just for this one paragraph. Their agreement is option 3; is, is.

That said, there are no hard and fast rules for the comma. Even the experts disagree at times (read "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" for a humorous story about the two kings of editing and their ongoing debate about the use of a comma). The best I've found to do is to punctuate formally and consistantly throughout the manuscript. Once the final draft is at hand, go back and remove or insert commas that seem troublesome.

Warren

unthoughtknown
05-20-2006, 08:05 AM
"I'll tell you what I think, Miss Talbot," he said, ignoring the paper in her hand, "and what it is, is that rest period is over! Your job at hand is not to question the reports coming cross your desk. It is to key them onto Hollerith cards. Is that understood? Get back to work!"

"I'll tell you what I think, Miss Talbot," he said, ignoring the paper in her hand, "rest period is over! Your job at hand is not to question the reports coming cross your desk. It is to key them onto Hollerith cards. Is that understood? Get back to work!"

Hi Warren. Played with your dialogue. Could that have worked?

Warren
05-20-2006, 08:32 AM
"I'll tell you what I think, Miss Talbot," he said, ignoring the paper in her hand, "rest period is over! Your job at hand is not to question the reports coming cross your desk. It is to key them onto Hollerith cards. Is that understood? Get back to work!"

I'd punctuate it ever so slightly otherwise (... her hand. "Rest period..."), but I take your point. Yes, it could work, but so could:

"I think, Miss Talbot, you should do well to mind your duties!"

In fact, the above is very close to my first draft (whenever that was!)

Admittedly, I left out the preceding paragraphs. The effect up to this paragraph is one of an intolerant officer, quick to shout down and belittle everyone about him. I had the goal of a building a crescendo in the dialog. The man begins full of anger but speaking slowly, pompously and condescendingly, driving home the point that his is the superior brain and the girls he's speaking to is a useless, mindless troublesome waste of human flesh that only serves to consume precious rations.

(Of course, he is entirely wrong. He's the useless lump of flesh, and Miss Talbot is by far the most clever, dedicated person he'll ever run up against!)

Yes, many ways would have worked. I wanted that slow, Holier-than-Thou build up to the final command, "Get back to work!" My 'is, is' construct came about only after many revisions. I'm sold on it until an agent tells me to get rid of it. (Hey, it could happen! Gotta get the agent, first.)

Warren

reph
05-20-2006, 09:12 AM
Options 2 and 3 were settled by my paying $75 and $100 for two professional opinons from copy editors, just for this one paragraph. Their agreement is option 3; is, is.I would have given you the same opinion. If you routinely pay that well, please think of me next time.

A. J. Luxton
05-21-2006, 10:23 AM
Sometimes, the comma doesn't work, as for "had had".

"He had had to be very careful with the package, due to its explosive contents."

In this case the second "had" has a separate meaning from the first "had" -- the first one means the sentence is taking place in past past tense (there's a real word for that, but I can never remember it when I need it) and the second one is for requirement -- "he had needed to be very careful with the package".

maestrowork
05-21-2006, 10:52 AM
Sometimes, the comma doesn't work, as for "had had".

"He had had to be very careful with the package, due to its explosive contents."


That's called past perfect tense, I think. And there should NEVER be a comma there.

Personally, I find that very clunky. I'd have written it as:

"It had been necessary for him to be careful with the package because of its explosive contents."

HeyBooBoo
05-21-2006, 11:42 AM
I try to work around double words, they drive me nuts when I see them on paper. Instead of "He had had..." I'll put "He'd had...." Even though it's the same thing I breath easier when I see it.

I also find myself stuck in a "that that" situation more often than I'd like, more than likely due to the "more than just friends" relationship I've been trying to get out of with "that" word.