Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CMOS Rule 6.39—One more, sheer cliff

Chicago Manual of Style under 6.39 indicates you separate sequential adjectives before a direct object, i.e.,  ADJ, ADJ DO

Caveat one: Separate with commas if you can replace the comma with and without changing the meaning.

. . . example in CMOS: She proved a faithful and sincere friend.

Caveat two: unless the adjective immediately preceding the direct object are "conceived as a unit."

. . . example in CMOS: She has many young friends.

So here is my clause: He had one more sheer cliff. . .

Is "sheer cliff" conceived as a unit?

I don't think so. Sheer simply describes what kind of cliff. And "more" is an additional modifier of cliff.

My argument: My sentence without the comma indicates it's more sheer, as in sheerer.

However: I couldn't write: He had one more and sheer cliff.

So I'm at a loss.

No opinions please, but if you know for a fact if the comma is/isn't necessary, could you comment?  Thanks
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  1. Mac, are you serious or trying to be more sheer obtuse?

  2. What part of my blog implied I was joking?

    I decided to reach out to my educated peers, since I've experienced similar situations in the past, and I'd prefer to get this correct, so I look educated.

    Would you dare claim comma use is simple?

    There is no other category of grammar in the CMOS with as many rules, as the comma.


  3. Sheer-cliff is conceived as a single unit but aren't all cliffs "sheer" to some degree (bordering on cliché) and therefore redundant in the sentence? Sounds better anyway without the word: “He had one more cliff…” Coupled with the one syllable modifiers, the noun/idea cluster “cliff” has a bold, three-beat sound rather than the muddled four-beat as you’ve written. The four-beat phrase softens the punch of the phrase, makes it expository, less important, than the “challenge” the fragment implies. Sadly, one won’t find such an artistic analysis in a grammar dictum.
    I haven’t found mastering comma use to be my life’s greatest challenge. Maybe it was a professional magazine’s copy deck I suffered[comma optional] or the professional journalists and novelists I’d argue with until the wee hours of the morning [comma] debating such period-tailing moments. It may have been my music training that showed my ear the need for pause between certain notes [comma] the primary significance of employing commas. Without the grace music taught [comma] I would not be half the writer I am.
    Yes [comma] there are rules [comma or semi-colon—comma, the informal tone, semi-colon, more formal] most are easy to employ. If writers would consider how words look on a page [comma- take a breath- contrast the idea] more would naturally employ them in appropriate spots.
    Commas are periods with tails. Like periods [comma, sometimes optional, employed for emphasis] commas are meant to close thoughts [commas at the front of sentences with introductory phrases] or add or contrast [post-sentence phases, found just after the main sentence], but the entire mess [comma – necessary for clarity, not optional] all of it [comma] before a period must be related [comma] belong as one.
    My space and time is limited [comma] so I will close here. Forget the CMOS. Are you a writer/artist or a journalist? Yet one has to know the rules: Warriner's English Grammar and Composition -The Complete Course: Commas pg.537-552. This is the source code for all the other writing religions out there.
    Finally[comma] as you've stated[comma] "…more and sheer..." makes no sense. You've answered your own question.

  4. You always provoke a smile, John.