1. JaShinYa
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    JaShinYa Member

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    Comma Fiend

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by JaShinYa, Oct 5, 2010.

    Ok. So one of my flaws as a writer is to use waayyy too many commas. Is anyone able to give a general guideline to comma usage?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    A sentence is a group of words that make sense together ending in a stop (which can be a full stop, question mark etc), it should usually contain a subject and a verb. A comma is used where you want to place a comma in a sentence when it is incomplete but there is a change. However as a writer where you actually put a comma and fullstop can be used creatively to give you the feel you want to your writing.

    Best way I find to work out if I have it where I want it is to read my story out loud taking breaths - one breath for a comma and two for a fullstop and see how it flows. I love playing about with punctuation - Lewis Grassic Gibbon wrote the Scots Quair one of my favourite groups of stories - the punctuation can make it hard to read but once you get into his flow it is worth it. He barely uses fullstops and uses mostly commas.
     
  3. Beckahrah
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    Beckahrah Member

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    I do the same thing. I've written paragraph-long sentences that are grammatically correct, just with lots and lots of commas. In fact, one of my creative writing assignments was to write a 100-word-long sentence correctly. I try not to let myself use more than 2 commas per sentence (outside of items in a series, of course), although there are always exceptions. A good rule of thumb I've always heard is that you shouldn't have to stop for breath in the middle of a sentence.

    But these things are all subjective. As long as it's grammatically correct, your sentence structure is really up to you the writer.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Creative writers can bend punctuation rules somewhat, and they are open to slightly varying interpretation and Am Eng/Brit Eng variations. However, to do away with what seems to be unnecessary mystique about comma usage, I advise you to look up the several excellent sites or guides on correct usage of commas.

    I mean, really, there are basic rules and tricks that a writer ought to know,
    e.g. you can separate 2 adjectives with a comma when the word ‘and’ can be inserted:
    She’s a wonderful, generous person (comma: you can say ‘wonderful and generous’).
    But: She has an expensive foreign car (no comma, because you wouldn’t say ‘expensive and foreign’).

    I know that in British schools children are often taught ‘Wherever you take a breath’, but this is not actually a good guideline to follow at all, IMO. In fact, we tend rather to use commas to set off expressions that are interrupting the flow of the sentence, not where we ‘breathe’,
    e.g.
    My students often have, as you can probably imagine, problems with punctuation.

    I could go on about how to use commas, but won’t, since I’m sure you can find reliable guides to help you.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I must agree with your sentiment. I would hazard that this is where the overgrowth of commas finds its purchase. One must be more acquainted with the parts of a sentence to know where the comma is truly needed and trim away these decorative commas when they start to take over the garden.
     
  6. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    I think, as most of the responders have already pointed out, the problem is not the commas themselves; it's more to do with the length of the sentences. I have the same problem, although, in my case, I noticed too many conjunctions rather than too many commas. The answer isn't simple, but there's an important thing to remember - don't be afraid of short sentences.

    Here's a link to the thread I started about long sentences. It might help.

    In this case, you do need a comma. It's an extra bit of information, almost as an aside. Without the comma this sentence says that he failed to even try, rather than failing once he tried.

    See Cogito's first reply to this post.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also, one of my first blog posts here was a rant against marathon sentences: Parole Me From This Sentence.
     
  8. JaShinYa
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    JaShinYa Member

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    I think i will take people's advice on making the sentences active instead of passive. That would cut down on commas as well as read more smoothly. I'm also going to take a look at those posts
     

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