Welcome to another Wordy Wednesday. I came across this topic a few days ago and decided it would make a nice discussion point for today. Commas! The semi-bane of my existence. That being said, the author / blogger who I am borrowing tidbits from can be found in the links below. She gives a better definition and further breakdowns of what a comma is as well as rules and examples.
WRITING AND THE COMMA | Story EmpireWRITING AND THE COMMA | Story Empire
The basic rules she covers, as pulled from the page itself if you don’t want to go check it out, are as follows:
1. Add commas to separate a list of three or more items. Example: I need to write, sleep, and eat.https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/2022/06/03/writing-and-the-comma/
2. A comma joins independent clauses using these coordinating conjunctions known as FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Example: I am comma-challenged, so I have to look up the rules.
3. A comma goes around nonessential information in a sentence. Example: My husband, who owns a black Harley, loves to do yardwork.
4. Put a comma after an introductory clause in a sentence before the main clause or subject. Example: Because I love challenges, I write poetry on the back of a Harley.
5. A comma goes at the end of a sentence to separate elements, like a shift or pause. Example: It was a beautiful spring day to write poetry outside, no breeze.
6. Place a comma between two or more coordinate adjectives describing the same noun. Example: What a blissful, happy moment.
7. Commas are generally used with quotes. Example: “I ate all my chocolate,” Denise said.
I’ll be among the first to admit that, while I use a lot of commas in my writing, I am not a scholarly expert on the subject. Editors and bonafide proofreaders are more masters of that realm, but I will try to help and elaborate on the topic at least a little bit.
The first rule is fun and necessary though there is some debate about the Oxford comma when it comes to separating the last item and whether the comma is needed or not.
On the other hand, some commas are absolutely necessary. Case in point:
The second rule is one I have a pretty good handle on, but (hah! See what I did there?) I have become overly fond of using them when the clause after the FANBOYS conjunction is… dependent. “I want to bake a cake, but without using eggs.” This is not exactly correct… It should be: “I want to bake a cake but without using eggs.” The reason why is because the clause after the but is dependent. It cannot stand on it’s own. “I want to bake a cake.” Complete sentence on its own. “But without using eggs.” Incomplete sentence. It depends on the first independent clause to make sense.
In regard to the third rule, this is important to set apart information that is necessary to the sentence or not. As in the example above, it’s not important or necessary that we need to know her husband “owns a black Harley.” It’s not necessary and does not change the meaning of the sentence if we take it out. Alternatively, in the sentence: “The man who is sitting on the bench is my father” would be an example of using an essential clause. ‘Who is sitting on the bench’ is describing the man and telling the reader who exactly I’m talking about. It changes the meaning considerably if I remove it and just say “The man is my father.” Who? Which man?
The fourth is one I use a lot… Introductory phrases are my friend. From this tidbit in one of my current stories, we can see rule #3 and #4 in action.
Other than sparring with Jerich, which was an almost daily event now, and studying with Zachariah, when he wasn’t helping her with the garden in the back, she had very little reason to see them.
The introductory phrase here = Other than sparring with Jerich and studying with Zachariah
We have nonessential clauses in: “which was an almost daily event now” & “when he wasn’t helping her with the garden in the back”
And the core or the base of the sentence being: “she had very little reason to see them.” Everything else is extra, either acting to introduce the sentence or to add unnecessary but fun details. ^_^
The fifth rule is one that I must admit to not using very often… At least not in the context in which I’m seeing it here. Rather, I have seen a comma used at the end to make a distinction between the sentence and a reference to who they’re talking to.
The sixth rule I’ve been waffling on a fair bit lately so I should probably go back and review it at least a little bit. But suffice to say that if you can use and between two descriptive adjectives for the same noun, you generally need to separate them with a comma if you remove the coordinating conjunction.
And the last one is in reference to quoting or… in dialogue. So, so much dialogue. haha Take a look at another example below:
“Huh? Oh, fine.” He flashed her an easy smile as he looked down, keeping his finger on the page to mark where he was. “Theory is my strong point after all,” he added with a wink, turning to resume his reading. When he found what she was working on, his brows creased. “Ancient’s Dust?” he murmured in obvious surprise, glancing down to make sure he was correct in his assumption.
When using dialogue or quoting someone, it is possible to end the sentence in a period, link it to the descriptions after (or before) with a comma, or even use something like a question mark or quotation mark to soft stop the sentence but continue on as if you’d used a comma. But seriously. As you can probably see in the passage above, I’m a fan of commas. haha
But anyway, I’ll go ahead and wrap things up for now. If you want to try your hand at modifying a passage for comma use, feel free to try:
“While Jinki was there to meet the researcher his attention was immediately arrested by the three performers onstage. A Moladhi was the main dancer flowing multihued ribbons of costume fluttering around as she twirled and flipped a single pole her anchor amidst the lower gravity in her portion of the stage. It helped make her look like she was flying since her brilliantly dyed plumage was decorative at best. And she was magnificent dominating the show as intended but her secondary dancers were nothing to sneeze at either.”
I’ve removed the commas from where I would put them but if you want to reinsert them and let me know in the comments below, I’d be delighted.
For, good luck, and thank you for stopping by! See you next time!
Additional Resources for Comma explanations and descriptions:
Header image pulled from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350506783494776428/
Background music while writing this:
5 thoughts on “WW – The Comma”
I love the humor, Naomi! Thanks for making my afternoon.
After struggling with the many punctuation rules, especially the “don’t do this if it’s Tuesday and raining,” I bit the bullet and invested in ProWritingAid. Since using this wonderful tool, I no longer wonder whether I my posts and stories have too many, too few, or misplaced commas. BTW: I’m a heavy Scrivener user, and ProWritingAid updates the file so I don’t create more errors by copying and pasting.
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Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I’m glad it made your day. haha
And nice suggestion about the ProWritingAid. I may consider it. Personally, I like not having that sort of tool on hand because it tends to help me stay on my toes and keep thinking about where I want to put commas or where I need them. And it misses the obvious issues of homophones – maybe. I don’t know for sure but those are a more egregious error for me. lol But yes! Scrivener! Total game changer. ^_^
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For me, the sixth grade was the toughest three years of my life, so I’m punctuation challenged ;-). BTW: ProWritingAid does a good job of flagging for decision homophones (e.g., they’re vs. there vs. their, your vs. you’re, etc.). If it’s of interest, you can find a detailed review on my site by entering “ProWritingAid” in the search box.
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Oof. Sorry punctuation left such a lasting impression. But yay for tools to help us get around that nowadays. Huzzah!
I’m pretty solid with those homophones. It’s the lesser used ones that have a tendency to bite me in the behind. Notably waste vs waist and vile vs vial have gotten me in trouble on occasion. lol I’ll have to check out the product review at least though. Never can have too many tools in your back pocket. 😉
One of my subscribers who speaks French but writes in English mentioned earlier today what a difference ProWritingAid made in her blog posts and product copy. I’m so spoiled using the tool that I can’t think about doing without it. My wife uses it to break the habit of using passive instead of action verbs. It’s the Swiss army knife in my writer’s toolbox. 🧰
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