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I always think of commas as indicating pauses in speech, and vice versa.

So I was surprised the other day when I saw somebody's typed-out Pledge of Allegiance, which looked like this:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The reason that it stood out to me was because of the way that I've always heard everyone recite it... with far more pauses, which to me, would be indicative of more commas:

"I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America. And to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

This version feels more familiar to me, more in line with the way we recite. But seeing it written down, it seems ridiculously comma-heavy.

So... is my understanding of commas correct? Is it correct to use them to demonstrate pauses in speech? Are they required to influence/enforce cadence? If so, can I have too many commas, or is it correct to use as many as I have pauses, even if that's a lot?

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More to the point, the Pledge as originally written didn't have the clause which is bothering you. Under God wasn't added until the 1950s. The original Pledge ran, "the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Adding the phrase under God actually divides the "one nation indivisible" which isn't supposed to be broken up. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 27 '12 at 23:55
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It certainly does divide the one nation indivisible. –  cornbread ninja Jul 28 '12 at 14:02
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Hi Terrance, I've edited your question to give clearer focus to your practical question. Hope you're OK with my changes - if not, you can comment here and we'll work it out together. –  Standback Jul 29 '12 at 3:32
    
No, no, that's perfectly fine. Thank you. –  Terrance Shaw Jul 29 '12 at 3:58
    
Here's one of my favourite articles about comma's I thought I would share: opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/… –  Kev Jul 29 '12 at 13:01

2 Answers 2

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In dialogues (or monologues, or any transcriptions), commas are used for two reasons:

1- Logical separators as in formal grammar and;

2- to indicate oral pauses whether grammatically correct or not. Dashes () and ellipses () can also be used this way, usually at at a line's end.

So, I'd say that if you are reciting the pledge itself as content then the formal -comma light- version should be used. That's true for all text everywhere because commas translate to pauses in speech, not vice versa.

The version where pauses are captured with commas could be used in dialogues and situations where you want the text to convey how the phrase/sentence/...etc was meant to be said. This could be called 'conversation mode' as the reader translates commas to pauses then translates the whole text back with proper 'grammatical commas.'

* One more thing, punctuation is always included 'as is' when quoting text.

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You don't need a comma before the "and" just before "to the Republic." There are supposed to be three commas entirely.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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