Tag Archives: Comma

Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – That Crucial Comma, Part 3

I’m still busy editing my WIP. It’s nearly finished though, I’ve now printed it out and am working my way through it. I thought I’d only be looking for typos, but everything looks so different on paper, and I find myself changing at least five sentences per two pages (I printed two pages on a paper to save paper). But enough talk about my work, here’s the last part about commas for you to improve your work.

That Crucial Comma – Part 3

comma_W700

Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a distinct pause or shift / to offset negation in a sentence

 Example: I read a romance, not a thriller, last weekend.

In this case, you still need the comma if the negation occurs at the end of the sentence.

Example: I read a romance, not a thriller.

Use a comma to separate a statement from a question.

Example: I can write, can’t I?

Use a comma to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.

Example: That is my book, not yours.

Also, use commas when any distinct shift occurs in the sentence or thought process.

Example: That was a fantasy story, perhaps even a dark fantasy one.

Use commas to set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow (nevertheless, after all, by the way, on the other hand, however, etc.).

Example: I am, by the way, sure about this.

Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), and addresses (except the street number and name)

Example: September 11, 2001, was a scary day.

Even if you add a weekday, keep the comma after 2001.

Example: Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a scary day.

Example: Tuesday, September 11, was a scary day.

You don’t need to add a comma when the sentence mentions only the month and year.

Example: September 2001 was a scary month.

Example: I work at 666 Park Ave. South, New York, N.Y. 60606.

Example: Portland, Maine, is a wonderful city.

Use a comma to shift between the main discourse and a quotation

If attribution comes before the quote, place the comma outside the quotations marks.

Example: The reader said, “I read a book.”

If attribution comes after the quote, put the comma inside the quotation marks.

Example: “I read a book,” said the reader.

If the attribution is within the quote, put the first comma within the first quotation marks and the second comma immediately after the attribution, outside of the second quotation marks.

Example: “Why,” I asked, “won’t you tell me?”

If a quotation functions as a subject or object in a sentence, it might not need a comma.

Example: Is ‘I don’t mind’ all you can say to me?

If a quoted question ends in midsentence, the question mark replaces a comma.

Example: “Will you still be my friend?” she asked.

Use commas wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading

Example: I called you my darling.

Example: I called you, my darling.

Use a comma after certain words that introduce a sentence, such as well, yes, why, hello, hey, etc.

Example: Why, I can’t believe you!

Example: No, you can’t have a raise.

Use a comma before and after certain introductory words or terms, such as namely, that is, i.e., e.g., and for instance, when they are followed by a series of items.

Example: You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bag, tent, and a mat.

A comma should precede the term etc. Many authorities also recommend a comma after etc. when it is placed midsentence.

Example: You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bag, tent, mat, etc.

(Please note there is no extra full stop when the sentence ends with an abbreviation ending in a full stop)

Example: Sleeping bag, tent, a mat, etc., are required.

Use a comma to set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed

Example: My boss often asks, “Jody, is that article up yet?”

Example: Will you, Aisha, do that assignment for me?

Example: Yes, old friend, I will.

Example: Good day, Captain.

Traditionally, if a person’s name is followed by Sr. or Jr., a comma follows the last name.

Example:  Martin Luther King, Jr.

This comma is no longer considered mandatory. However, if a comma does precede Sr. or Jr., another comma must follow the entire name when it appears midsentence.

Correct: Al Capone Sr. is here.

Correct: Al Capone, Sr., is here.

Incorrect: Al Capone, Sr. is here.

Similarly, use commas to enclose degrees or titles used with names.

Example: Al Mooney, M.D., is here.

Use commas before every sequence of three numbers when writing a number larger than 999

(Two exceptions are writing years and house numbers)

Example: 10,000 or 1,304,687.

Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!

Sources:
http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp
http://www.businessinsider.com/a-guide-to-proper-comma-use-2013-9?IR=T

Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – The Comma, Part 2

I’ve been so busy doing all sorts, that I haven’t had a chance to work on my book at all. Today is the day I’m starting edit 4 (text-to-speech) and I’m not going to let anything disturb me :). If you’ve forgotten what a clause is, check out this blog. If you want to brush up on Part 1, check it out here. So, without further ado, here is part 2 of the crucial comma lesson.

That Crucial Comma

Comma

Do not use commas to set off essential elements of the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that (relative clauses)

That clauses after nouns are always essential. That clauses following a verb expressing mental action are always essential.

Example: The dog that attacked me scared me.

Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off appositives; clauses, phrases, and words (who, that, which) that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence

Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.

Example: I saw a finch, a kind of bird.

A kind of bird is the appositive, which gives more information about a finch.

Incorrect: Ben who is my brother called me.

Correct: Ben, who is my brother, called me.

Following are two instances of the need for an appositive comma with one or more nouns.

Incorrect: The three shopping items, a bottle of wine, a French bread stick, and some French cheese were in my bag.

Correct: The three shopping items, a bottle of wine, a French bread stick, and some French cheese, were in my bag.

If the appositive occurs in the middle of the sentence, like in the above sentences and in this one, both sides of the phrase need a comma. The closing comma is called an appositive comma. Many writers forget to add this important comma.

Example: Frances, who has a limp, was in a car accident.

If we already know which Frances is meant, the description is not essential and hence between commas.

Example: The boy who has a limp was in a car accident.

We do not know which boy is meant without further description; therefore, no commas are used.

This leads to a persistent problem. Look at the following sentence:

Example: My sister Jane is here.

Now, see how adding two commas changes that sentence’s meaning:

Example: My sister, Jane, is here.

Careful writers and readers understand that the first sentence means I have more than one sister. The commas in the second sentence mean that Jane is my only sister.

Why? In the first sentence, Jane is essential information: it identifies which of my two (or more) sisters I’m speaking of. This is why no commas enclose Jane.

In the second sentence, Jane is nonessential information—whom else but Jane could I mean?—hence the commas.

Comma misuse is nothing to take lightly. It can lead to lies like this:

Example: Jacky Dahlhaus’s book, Living Like A Vampire, is a delight.

Because of the commas, that sentence states that I wrote only one book. But I wrote four books so far.

If something or someone is sufficiently identified, the description that follows is considered nonessential and should be surrounded by commas.

Incorrect: My best friend Joe arrived.

Correct: My best friend, Joe, arrived.

Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series

Example: I saw a bird, a worm, and a fallen tree when I went walking.

Note: When the last comma in a series comes before and or or, it is known as the Oxford comma.

Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun

Be sure never to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non-coordinate adjectives.

Example: I saw a big, mean dog when I went walking.

Only coordinate adjectives require a comma between them. Two adjectives are coordinate if you can answer yes to both of these questions:

1. Does the sentence still make sense if you reverse the order of the words?

2. Does the sentence still make sense if you insert “and” between the words?

Since ‘I saw a mean, big dog’ and ‘I saw a big and mean dog’ both sound fine, you need the comma.

Sentences with non-coordinate adjectives, however, don’t require a comma.

Example: I eat the salty chicken soup.

Salty describes chicken soup as a whole phrase. This often occurs with adjunct nouns, a phrase where a noun acts as an adjective describing another noun — like ‘dance club’ or ‘summer sun.’

That’s it for today. Have a wonderful writing weekend!

Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – The Comma, Part 1

I’m nearly finished with my third edit of Book 3 of the Suckers Trilogy. Only two chapters to go! After that, I’ve got two more edits to do (listening to it and reading it on paper) before it is reading worthy. So, in the meant time, here’s my rehash about that crucial comma.

That crucial comma

comma_W700.png

Even though the comma is such a tiny thing, it holds enormous power, able to completely change a sentence. ‘Let’s eat, Grandma,’ gets a totally different meaning when you omit the comma; ‘Let’s eat Grandma.’ It can even make the difference between winning court cases or not (see this article).

This first lesson will be on the placement of commas between independent and dependent clauses.

Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of the seven coordinating conjunctions

The coordinating conjunctions being, of course; for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (it’s easy to remember when you use the acronym FANBOYS).

Example: I had a coffee, and I had a donut.

If the subject does not appear in front of the second verb, a comma is generally unnecessary.

Example: I had a coffee and had a donut.

But sometimes a comma in this situation is necessary to avoid confusion.

Confusing: I saw that he was leaving and had a donut.

Clearer with comma: I saw that he was leaving, and had a donut.

Without a comma, the reader is liable to think that ‘he’ was the one who had a donut.

Some writers omit the comma if the clauses are both quite short.

Example: I drink and he eats.

Many inexperienced writers run two independent clauses together by using a comma instead of a period. This results in the dreaded run-on sentence or, more technically, a comma splice.

Incorrect: He ate all the donuts, he drank all the wine.

There are several simple remedies:

Correct: He ate all the donuts. He drank all the wine.

Correct: After he ate all the donuts, he drank all the wine.

CorrectHe ate all the donuts, and he drank all the wine.

Use commas after dependent clauses and introductory clauses, phrases, words or adverbs that come before the main (independent) clause

When starting a sentence with a dependent clause, use a comma after it. A comma is usually unnecessary when the sentence starts with an independent clause followed by a dependent clause.

Example: If you aren’t staying for dinner, let me know now.

Example: Let me know if you aren’t staying for dinner.

Follow the same policy with introductory phrases.

Example: Having finally decided on the menu, we ordered our meals.

Example: We ordered our meals having finally decided on the menu.

However, if the introductory phrase is clear and brief (three or four words), the comma is optional.

Example: When in town we go partying.

But always add a comma if it would avoid confusion.

Example: Last Sunday, evening classes were canceled.

(The comma prevents a misreading.)

When an introductory phrase begins with a preposition, a comma may not be necessary even if the phrase contains more than three or four words.

Example: Into the sparkling pink champagne she gazed.

If such a phrase contains more than one preposition, a comma may be used unless a verb immediately follows the phrase.

Example: Between your red wine on the left and my white wine on the right, the man’s beer glass stood proudly.

Example: Between your red wine on the left and my white wine on the right stood the man’s beer glass.

Also, insert a comma when “however” starts a sentence as well. Phrases like “on the other hand” and “furthermore” also fall into this category. Starting a sentence with “however,” however, is discouraged by many careful writers. A better method would be to use “however” within a sentence after the phrase you want to negate, as in the previous sentence.

Many adverbs end in “ly” and answer the question “how?” How did someone do something? How did something happen? When you start your sentence with these adverbs, they are also followed by a comma.

Example: Majestically, he walked up to me.

Next week I’ll talk about how to incorporate a comma into a sentence more creatively.

Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!

Sources:

http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp

http://www.businessinsider.com/a-guide-to-proper-comma-use-2013-9?IR=T

Lessons Learned #36

This is the last time I’ll be rambling on about commas! I hope I have made things a bit clearer about the comma and you won’t have a problem conveying what you want properly in a sentence now 🙂 .

That Crucial Comma – Part 3

Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a distinct pause or shift / to offset negation in a sentence

 Example: I saw a dog, not a bird, when I went walking.

In this case, you still need the comma if the negation occurs at the end of the sentence.

Example: I saw a bird, not a dog.

Use a comma to separate a statement from a question.

Example: I can leave, can’t I?

Use a comma to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.

Example: That is my stuff, not yours.

Also use commas when any distinct shift occurs in the sentence or thought process.

Example: The cloud looked like an animal, perhaps a puppy.

Use commas to set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow (nevertheless, after all, by the way, on the other hand, however, etc.).

Example: I am, by the way, not sure about this.

Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name)

Example: March 15, 2013, was a scary day.

Even if you add a weekday, keep the comma after ‘2013.’

Example: Friday, March 15, 2013, was a scary day.

Example: Friday, March 15, was a scary day.

You don’t need to add a comma when the sentence mentions only the month and year.

Example: March 2013 was a scary month.

Example: I work at 666 Park Ave. South, New York, N.Y. 60606.

Example: Cleveland, Ohio, is a wonderful city.

Use a comma to shift between the main discourse and a quotation

If attribution comes before the quote, place the comma outside the quotations marks.

Example: The walker said, “I saw a dog.”

If attribution comes after the quote, put the comma inside the quotation marks.

Example: “I saw a dog,” said the walker.

If the attribution is within the quote, put the first comma within the first quotation marks and the second comma immediately after the attribution, outside of the second quotation marks.

“Why,” I asked, “won’t you tell me?”

If a quotation functions as a subject or object in a sentence, it might not need a comma.

Example: Is ‘I don’t mind’ all you can say to me?

If a quoted question ends in midsentence, the question mark replaces a comma.

Example: “Will you still be my friend?” she asked.

Use commas wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading

Example: I called you my darling.

Example: I called you, my darling.

Use a comma after certain words that introduce a sentence, such as well, yes, why, hello, hey, etc.

Example: Why, I can’t believe you!

Example: No, you can’t have a raise.

Use a comma before and after certain introductory words or terms, such as namely, that is, i.e., e.g., and for instance, when they are followed by a series of items.

Example: You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bag, tent, and a mat.

A comma should precede the term etc. Many authorities also recommend a comma after etc. when it is placed midsentence.

Example: Sleeping bag, tent, a mat, etc., are required.

Use a comma to set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed

Example: My boss often asks, “Jody, is that article up yet?”

Example: Will you, Aisha, do that assignment for me?

Example: Yes, old friend, I will.

Example: Good day, Captain.

Traditionally, if a person’s name is followed by Sr. or Jr., a comma follows the last name.

Example:  Martin Luther King, Jr.

This comma is no longer considered mandatory. However, if a comma does precede Sr. or Jr., another comma must follow the entire name when it appears midsentence.

Correct: Al Capone Sr. is here.

Correct: Al Capone, Sr., is here.

Incorrect: Al Capone, Sr. is here.

Similarly, use commas to enclose degrees or titles used with names.

Example: Al Mooney, M.D., is here.

Use commas before every sequence of three numbers when writing a number larger than 999

(Two exceptions are writing years and house numbers)

Example: 10,000 or 1,304,687.

Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!

Sources:

http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp

http://www.businessinsider.com/a-guide-to-proper-comma-use-2013-9?IR=T

Lessons Learned #35

So sorry, everyone. I got caught up in filming on Saturday and totally forgot to post my Lessons Learned #35! But here it is 🙂

That Crucial Comma – Part 2

Do not use commas to set off essential elements of the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that (relative clauses)

That clauses after nouns are always essential. That clauses following a verb expressing mental action are always essential.

Example: “The dog that attacked me scared me.”

Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off appositives; clauses, phrases, and words (who, that, which) that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence

Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.

Example: I saw a finch, a kind of bird.

‘A kind of bird’ is the appositive, which gives more information about ‘a finch.’

Incorrect: Ben who is my brother called me.

Correct: Ben, who is my brother, called me.

Following are two instances of the need for an appositive comma with one or more nouns.

Incorrect: The three shopping items, a bottle of wine, a French  bread stick, and some French cheese were in my bag.

Correct: The three shopping items, a bottle of wine, a French  bread stick, and some French cheese, were in my bag.

Example: Frances, who has a limp, was in a car accident.

If we already know which Frances is meant, the description is not essential and hence between commas.

Example: The boy who has a limp was in a car accident.

We do not know which boy is meant without further description; therefore, no commas are used.

This leads to a persistent problem. Look at the following sentence:

Example: My sister Jane is here.

Now, see how adding two commas changes that sentence’s meaning:

Example: My sister, Jane, is here.

Careful writers and readers understand that the first sentence means I have more than one sister. The commas in the second sentence mean that Jane is my only sister.

Why? In the first sentence, Jane is essential information: it identifies which of my two (or more) sisters I’m speaking of. This is why no commas enclose Jane.

In the second sentence, Jane is nonessential information—whom else but Jane could I mean?—hence the commas.

Comma misuse is nothing to take lightly. It can lead to a train wreck like this:

Example: Mark Twain’s book, Tom Sawyer, is a delight.

Because of the commas, that sentence states that Twain wrote only one book. In fact, he wrote more than two dozen of them.

If something or someone is sufficiently identified, the description that follows is considered nonessential and should be surrounded by commas.

Incorrect: My best friend Joe arrived.

Correct: My best friend, Joe, arrived.

If the appositive occurs in the middle of the sentence, both sides of the phrase need a comma. The closing comma is called an appositive comma. Many writers forget to add this important comma.

Example: A magpie, the kind of bird I saw when I went walking, attacked me.

Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series

Example: I saw a bird, a worm, and a fallen tree when I went walking.

Note: When the last comma in a series comes before and or or, it is known as the Oxford comma.

Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun

Be sure never to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non-coordinate adjectives.

Example: I saw a big, mean dog when I went walking.

Only coordinate adjectives require a comma between them. Two adjectives are coordinate if you can answer yes to both of these questions:

1. Does the sentence still make sense if you reverse the order of the words?

2. Does the sentence still make sense if you insert “and” between the words?

Since ‘I saw a mean, big dog’ and ‘I saw a big and mean dog’ both sound fine, you need the comma.

Sentences with non-coordinate adjectives, however, don’t require a comma.

Example: I eat  the salty chicken soup.

‘Salty’ describes ‘chicken soup’ as a whole phrase. This often occurs with adjunct nouns, a phrase where a noun acts as an adjective describing another noun — like ‘dance club’ or ‘summer sun.’

Part 3 about commas coming up this Friday 🙂

Have a Wonderful Writing Week!

Lessons Learned #34

That crucial comma

Even though the comma is such a tiny thing, it holds enormous power, able to completely change a sentence.

Just before I put my novel ‘Living Like A Vampire’ online on Amazon, I threw it through Grammarly. So glad I did. And do you know what? About 95% of the problems that needed to be rectified were comma placements. I got so frustrated with it, that I went online and did some research. I now have four pages of info on when and where to place commas. This is a bit much, so I’ll split the info. The first lesson will be on the placement of commas between independent and dependent clauses.

Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.

Example: I had a coffee, and I had a donut.

If the subject does not appear in front of the second verb, a comma is generally unnecessary.

Example: I had a coffee and had a donut.

But sometimes a comma in this situation is necessary to avoid confusion.

Confusing: I saw that he was leaving and had a donut.

Clearer with comma: I saw that he was leaving, and had a donut.

Without a comma, the reader is liable to think that ‘he’ was the one who had a donut.

Some writers omit the comma if the clauses are both quite short.

Example: I drink and he eats.

Many inexperienced writers run two independent clauses together by using a comma instead of a period. This results in the dreaded run-on sentence or, more technically, a comma splice.

Incorrect: He ate all the donuts, he drank all the wine.

There are several simple remedies:

Correct: He ate all the donuts. He drank all the wine.

Correct: After he ate all the donuts, he drank all the wine.

Correct: He ate all the donuts, and he drank all the wine.

Use commas after dependent clauses and introductory clauses, phrases, words or adverbs that come before the main (independent) clause.

When starting a sentence with a dependent clause, use a comma after it. A comma is usually unnecessary when the sentence starts with an independent clause followed by a dependent clause.

Example: If you aren’t staying for dinner, let me know now.

Example: Let me know if you aren’t staying for dinner.

Follow the same policy with introductory phrases.

Example: Having finally decided on the menu, we ordered our meals.

Example: We ordered our meals having finally decided on the menu.

However, if the introductory phrase is clear and brief (three or four words), the comma is optional.

Example: When in town we go partying.

But always add a comma if it would avoid confusion.

Example: Last Sunday, evening classes were cancelled.

(The comma prevents a misreading.)

When an introductory phrase begins with a preposition, a comma may not be necessary even if the phrase contains more than three or four words.

Example: Into the sparkling pink champagne she gazed.

If such a phrase contains more than one preposition, a comma may be used unless a verb immediately follows the phrase.

Example: Between your red wine on the left and my white wine on the right, the man’s beer glass stood proudly.

Example: Between your red wine  on the left and my white wine on the right stood the man’s beer glass.

Also insert a comma when “however” starts a sentence, too. Phrases like “on the other hand” and “furthermore” also fall into this category. Starting a sentence with “however,” however, is discouraged by many careful writers. A better method would be to use “however” within a sentence after the phrase you want to negate, as in the previous sentence.

Many adverbs end in “ly” and answer the question “how?” How did someone do something? How did something happen?

Example: Majestically, he walked up to me.

Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!

Sources:

http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp

http://www.businessinsider.com/a-guide-to-proper-comma-use-2013-9?IR=T

Writers’ Corner update 02/11/16

Check out my Writers’ Corner update 20/11/16!

NaNoWriMo has started, but as I’m not participating I have added no articles about it.

Instead, I have some interesting ones on how to improve your writing, some comedy writing terminology, strategies to engage the middle level brain (for those of you who teach or want to focus on your research), how to make your characters seem smart, and (a hot topic for myself) an article about the comma splice.

In Focus on Filming I have two articles. Why ‘Back to the Future’ is one of the greatest scripts ever, and a comparison of two movies with the word ‘inferno’ in it (one by Dan Brown, the other by Werner Herzog).

Health Herald has only one added entry and it’s about the treatment of appendicitis. My appendix has been taken out years ago, but if I had read this article it may have been avoidable.