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  1. #1
    Joy Riches
    Guest

    The Dreaded Comma...

    I still don't quite understand when to use the comma. :-(
    Does anyone have a simple rule of thumb? I'm green.



  2. #2
    leslee
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    Google is your friend.

    Go to Google and type in "How to use a comma" with the quotes around it.

  3. #3
    Nikki Massie
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    Well, there are whole punctuation books (My favorite is
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! by Lynne Truss and Bonnie Timmons). In grade school I was always told that you put a comma when you want people to pause. I know it's more complex than that but that's the most basic rule. What took me a long time to grasp is when to use a comma and when to use the dash. From what I've gathered (and correct me if I'm wrong) dashes are for when a phrase digresses more away from the sentence (something that could be another sentence if you made it) whereas the clause within a comma is adding to the sentence.

    Ex:

    Comma: "My mother, who is a teacher, retired after many years of service."

    Dash: My mother--a dedicated teacher who never took a day off--retired after many years of service.

    Anhow, most of the time when I see a comma misused, it can be traced to one thing: failure to read a piece aloud. I read mine aloud and it is clear if there is a splice. Better yet, get someone else to read it aloud and note where they stumble. I can always tell if I need commas if I get lost in a sentence and have to re-read it to get the point.

  4. #4
    Joy Riches
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    Leslee, google may be my friend, but you guys are my scriberly family. heehee. I don't do well with textbook examples. I'd much rather get human examples...perhaps even from my own work (if I were brave enough to post it here).

    Nikki, thanks for the recommendation!
    p.s. Is your Mom really a teacher?

  5. #5
    Nikki Massie
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    No, she's a renaissance woman. And I'm a somethingorother. That's my new name for what I am. A somethingorother aspiring to be a successful writer.

  6. #6
    Joy Riches
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    haha, okay!
    I ask because I'm looking for teachers in the public school system to test my work on. I've done it before with astonishing results!
    (If I'm not mistaken, you're a sister, right?)

  7. #7
    leslee
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    How you learn is your business, but using Google is an aspect of research for a writer, and a very valuable one. It's important that you know use it to get answers quickly. When you're up writing the middle of the night, wondering where the comma goes, posting here won't help you.

  8. #8
    Mike Morey
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    Joy,

    To some degree it depends on whether you're writing fiction or non-. There is a certain amount of allowance for "flow" and "style" in modern fiction. Yes, there are rules that must be followed in certain places, but, for instance, if you read a lot of UK fiction, you'll find that those authors remove most of the commas, unless absolutely necessary. So, you can read Elements of Style and other valuable reference books, but by analyzing today's publishing writers, you'll get a good idea of what you can get away with.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers, Mike

  9. #9
    Joy Riches
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    Thanks Marvelous Mike!
    Leslee, loosen up. I see other writers asking about "and" and "effect" - so I can ask about commas. Humph! *disgruntled face*

  10. #10
    Amber Scott
    Guest

    Re: The Dreaded Comma...

    Don' worry about it, Joy. Some of us are happy to help!

    Unfortunately...commas are my nemesis. I wrote for years before meeting someone I consider very influential in my life, another writer named Kyle. I asked him to look at some of my work, and he basically looked at me and said, "Yo, what's up with your commas?" I use them way too often -- and always had! It was like realizing I'd been walking around with toilet paper on my shoe for the last ten years. :-p

    As for how to use commas...I still find it tricky. Sometimes I use them to separate a clause, like Nikki said. But sometimes I don't if I think it will ruin the flow. Other times I always use a comma:

    After an interjection: "Oh, what a surprise!" "I say, who are you people?"

    To separate a series, BUT, some publishers don't want you to use the last comma. For instance, one publisher wants you to write, "I went to the store, the cinema, and the post office." Another wants, "I went to the store, the cinema and the post office." I actually have a master list of comma use, spacing after periods, and em/en dash use for all the publishers I write for.

    However, you should use a comma at the end of the series if leaving it out would make the sentence confusing. Example I heard and loved: "He wanted to thank his parents, God and Elvis."

    Let's see, what else...I'm really lax with commas. My books are full of "stylistic license." Maybe I'll just stop there. Hope that was helpful!

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