1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Comma woes, need help

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, May 30, 2016.

    Hi all, I'm in the middle of polishing Not Pink having finally finished the fleshed out version.
    Comma's are giving me issues and I have a few sentences that I'm hoping someone can either okay or point out what's wrong. The tense is present tense, first person pov -

    As he rises, I dip down, taking his place.

    She smiles again and hurries to pick up, not only, the missed pieces but to triumphantly hold up the ones I didn't spot.

    Loren hangs off Max’s arm, weighing down his swing

    He didn’t bother cleaning me, just tugged me to the police station.

    Thumbing the bills, he mumbles under his breath things like (,?) 'I don't need this now.'
     
  2. Diane Elgin
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    Diane Elgin Member

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    Consider reading 'The Elements of Style' for advice on proper comma placement as recommended by purists. As for practical prose application, you can use commas for effect when you want the reader to take a pause at a specific place in a sentence. Use this when you want to give emphasis to your clauses.

    For example: If you remove all the commas from your first sentence, 'As he rises I dip down taking his place' it reads as one fluid motion. If you have 'As he rises, I dip down taking his place', the construction emphasizes his rising and your narrator's falling. If you write 'As he rises I dip down, taking his place', you have simultaneous movement followed by taking his place.

    I'd suggest removing all the commas from the second sentence as it has a natural flow to it and the use of 'but' makes the distinction between the seen missing pieces and the unseen one.

    The third and fourth sentences have a nice cause and effect visual to it with the current comma placement.

    The fifth one also works. The question of the second comma boils down to choice. If you want to show the character stopping to say 'I don't need this now', use the comma. If you want it to read as if he's saying it while thumbing the bills then leave it in.

    How you imagine the scene and how you want it to appear to the reader should decide comma use. If you want action to follow a fast sequence, use more commas, quickly, one more, then another. If it's something slower and measured then use longer clauses with less commas and more conjunctions so as to slow the reader's full comprehension of the sentence.
     
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  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Thanks, Diane!
     
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  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    All fine.

    Both commas are incorrect and the sentence doesn't need any.

    First comma is fine and you do need the second.

    I wouldn't go down the route of using commas to signify pauses. That's not what they're there for; they're to improve clarity.
     
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  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Ah! This could be where some of my trouble is coming from - good to know!
     
  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    A good rule of thumb is to check if a comma is separating a sentence fragment/dependent clause from a complete sentence/independent clause. If it is, it's probably okay. If not, ditch it. It's a lot more complicated than that so the rule doesn't always work, but I still think it's useful.
     
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  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Don't take my word for any of these:

    As he rises, I dip down taking his place.​
    I took one comma out.

    She smiles again and hurries to pick up the missed pieces, triumphantly holding up the ones I didn't spot.​
    I would redo the sentence, it's awkward.

    Loren hangs off Max’s arm, weighing down his swing
    He didn’t bother cleaning me, just tugged me to the police station.​
    Both look fine.

    Thumbing the bills he mumbled under his breath things like, 'I don't need this now.'​
    Yes you need the comma after like, but I don't put commas after every opening present participle. Maybe I'm supposed to. But I might also just reverse that.
    He thumbed through the bills mumbling under his breath things like, 'I don't need this now.'​
    And is there a reason you need to suggest he's saying a slew of "things like"? Is "I don't need this now" strong enough on its own?
    He thumbed through the bills mumbling under his breath, "I don't need this now."​
    Or even:
    He thumbed through the bills and mumbled under his breath, "I don't need this now."

    Edited to fix a typo, I often hit the s instead of the d.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
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  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree with Tenderiser's suggestions.

    The only other thing I'll say is that for a quicker pace, you should get rid of commas, not add more in. Adding commas can make the reader slow down. As an example, consider passages of stream of consciousness writing, where commas aren't used that often.
     
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  9. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I'm gonna try piggybacking my comma question onto this thread.

    The line:
    If they wanted to give him shit about being in North America on a refugee status, fine, he could accept it.

    I originally only had the second comma. Two different pieces of software tell me to put the first one in, but neither seems to care if I have the second one or not.

    This is why I hate commas. In math and science, something either is or isn't. Why does this idiotic software give me a half-assed answer? Ok... that was a rant, you don't need to answer that question.
     

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