grammar question. i know you all love these

“Never before has ionized water been sold so much, for so much.”

is the ending acceptable for formal writing? or even an essay?

ps, this is in reference to the growing prominence of gatorade.

“… has so much ionized water been sold at such an inflated price …”

Or “Never before has ionized water been sold in such great quantities, at such inflated prices.”

I think the problem is with the idiom, not the grammar.

If a large quantity of ionised water has been sold, I wouldn’t say that ionised water has sold “much”, or “a lot”. The sellers of ionised water have sold a lot, but ionised water has sold well.

So if you change the sentence to “never before has ionised water sold so well, for so much” it looks fine to me. Or “never before has so much ionised water been sold, for so much”.

The comma should be removed. You cannot have a comma only to separate a prepositional phrase from the main clause at the rear of a sentence, only at the beginning:

I have three days to find my sister.
To find my sister, I have three days.

However, I do agree that usually there needs to be some sort of separator, especially when the words have the same sound but different meaning. I would suggest:

“Never before has ionized water been sold so much–for so much.”

Also, I would disagree with the placement of the first “so much,” it should be before “ionized water”:
“Never before has so much ionized water been sold for so much.”

But, the way it is now is very clever, and I would accept it, if the comma was changed.

Huh. The last item in one grammar book I’ve had said that a comma could be used to separate words for clarification purposes. I wish I still had it, so I could list the examples given.

Anyway, I find your version of the sentence stylistically lacking. There’s a lack of balance. The first “so much” is used as an adjective before a noun, so I expect a similar usage the second time. Thus, I think “Never before has so much ionized water been sold for so much money,” parses better. But, by the time you do that, you lose the stylistic emphasis on the original phrase. So I have to say the original has a better stylistic punch.

It’s clumsy, but not particularly wrong. The comma is just fine because it parses out the phrases the way that particular sentence would be spoken. I have an idea the author liked the alliterative juxtaposition of “so much,” with a cute little emphasis on “for.” To each his own.

It’s certainly not as wrong as the general idea of selling “ionized water.”

Can’t help myself… there’s always creative formatting— i.e.,

“Never before has so much ionized water been sold, and for so much money.”

or, “Never before has so much money been spent on so much ionized water.”

or, more my style, “There is an unprecidented amount of ionized water being sold for an unprecidented amount of money.”

Or the editor just butchered the sentence.

I wrote a lede once that absolutely depended on one key phrase being repeated three times. The editor cut one out.

Actually, I do like grammar questions.

“Never before has ionized water been sold so much, for so much.”

You have asked if this is grammatically acceptable, and the answer is yes, but I wouldn’t start from here if I were you. In other words, there are other problems to fix first, before you worry about the grammar.

First of all, you have to say what you mean, and mean what you say (I hold this to be the golden rule of all writing worth the reading). As UDS pointed out, the first ‘so much’ either isn’t quite what you mean to convey or it’s in the wrong place (a problem fixed by twickster’s excellent suggestion).

If you are partial to the ‘so much / so much’ construction because you think it conveys a certain cleverness or playfulness, then fine, use it and defend it (should the need arise) on stylistic grounds.

Personally, I think I’d go with one of these:

“Never before has so much ionized water been sold for so much.”

“Never before has ionized water sold so well, for so much.”

“In the quest to sell ionized water, never before has so much been sold to so many, so well, for so much.”

Superhal states it exactly as I would; sounds like we had the same English professor. The comma jumps out at me as unnecessary the way the sentence is originally written.

It sounds like it’s a deliberate, but clumsy, reference to Churchill’s famous:

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

I like ianzin’s second suggestion, which keeps the spirit (if that is what was intended), but is clearer in meaning.

…although using precedented spelling instead would help prevent becoming distracted from the meaning by the unprecedented spelling.

Hey, I am the Chief Pedant, at least in my own little world.