Last week I issued a punctuation challenge to you "skills and drills" readers.
Here is the paragraph shown as it was punctuated when it was originally published:
Until very recently, the only way you could distribute multimedia files over the Web was by using external files as described in the first half of this chapter. In recent months, however, both Netscape and Microsoft have made many interesting steps toward integrating multimedia more closely into Web pages, either through the use of new HTML tags, through advanced capabilities such as Java, or through the use of "plug-ins"--help applications that are more closely integrated with the browser and with files reviewed within that browser.
--From Teach Yourself Web Publishing
with HTML 3.2 by Laura Lemay
Some acceptable variations (and some commentary) include the following:
- The comma after the first three-word introductory phrase is optional
- Use of a comma before the phrase "as described in the first half of this chapter" depends on the meaning: did she mean "using external files the way the first half of this chapter describes using them"? If so, no comma. And in fact that is how the original was punctuated. But it is possible to read this as meaning "the fact that you can distribute multimedia files over the Web by using external files was described in the first half of this chapter." If you read it that way, you would put a comma before as.
- You might have chosen to use parentheses around the phrase "through advanced capabilities such as Java" if you saw it as an interruption rather than as the second item on a list of three things. Or you might have removed the comma before "through advanced..." for the same reason.
(I think this sentence is the one that caught my attention and why I used this paragraph as a challenge--there was something awkward about it. Using "either" to introduce three items is incorrect, so I think the writer actually meant the middle item as an interrupting phrase; however, the interrupting phrase started with the same word that the two choices started with, "through," making the whole passage confusing. One reader basically commented that Henry James called and wants his dense, difficult writing style back.)
- You might have chosen to use parentheses rather than a dash to set off the explanation of plug-ins.