1. Rose Hunt
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    Rose Hunt Member

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    paragraphs with commas throughout

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rose Hunt, Oct 10, 2012.

    Hi everyone,
    I was hoping to get opinions on this. I notice that I use a lot of sentences with commas in my writing. Like Ill say "Before the rain turned the dirt to mud, she had walked over the path cleanly." or something similar. Anyway, I noticed that I had so many, and I wondered if I should rewrite with the intention of losing them? Or is it me being paranoid about my flow?
    Thanks for all feedback.
    Rose
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Read your stuff aloud. If it sounds okay, you're doing fine. Don't worry about counting commas. (Check late-period Henry James to read a writer who happily swam in commas like a fish in the sea.)
     
  3. Thromnambular
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    Thromnambular Member

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    I use plenty of commas too, and it worries me a bit as well...but as minstrel kind of just said, pay more attention to how those commas affect the flow of your writing. If it reads well, it probably isn't that wrong.
     
  4. Rose Hunt
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    Rose Hunt Member

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    Thanks minstrel and Thromnambular. I think it reads okay aloud. I'm glad I don't have to worry about it that bad. I worry over the strangest little things. :( Thanks again! :))
     
  5. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    Heh, my first submittal to an agent resulted in a positive reply. However, she also said it appeared that I had written without any commas at all, and then stood over the ms and sprinkled them from a pepper shaker.
     
  6. jg22
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    jg22 Member

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    Your sentence reads totally fine. Commas are good!
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just be sure you use them properly, where really needed...
     
  8. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    Heh, I make sentences like that all the time, too. When I'm writing, I just can't help it.
     
  9. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    After having recently re-learned the proper use of commas, I find them to be one of the joys of writing. With a comma there are so many things you can do! For example, you can make lists that read correctly, join two related independent clauses into a compound sentence (when used in conjunction with the proper fanboy or joining word), and make parallels and balance the sides of sentences. Commas are a true joy to use, but only when used properly! If a comma is in the wrong spot it can be very confusing. And speaking your writing out loud to find proper places for commas doesn't always work. Depending on where you're from, you might pause in your speech at certain points because that's how you speak, and not because there should be a comma there.

    Your sentence above is fine though, very well constructed grammatically. :)
     
  10. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't believe no one has yet to mention Lynn Truss's book the title of which so clearly illustrates the importace of properly placed commas. You know the one I'm talking about. You know ... the gun toting panda bear? The title either states that pandas live on a diet of bamboo shoots and leaves or else they are irritable little critters who don't pay their dinner tab and, if asked to do so, whip out a gun, blow away the waiter, then make for the exit like a mafia hit man.
    Eats Shoots & Leaves or Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

    The placement, or total lack of, commas can make or break a sentence. To fully understand where and when to pepper your prose with commas requires, amng othre things, a more complete understanding of dependant/independant clauses and phrases; the structure of compound sentences, commas in 'listing', and the difference between a compound sentence and a run-on. In other words, :D
     
  11. Desertrose
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    Desertrose Member

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    Comma's worry me. I'm getting very paranoid about them actually.
    I'm not sure I quite understand the rules about them, or if there really ARE rules or whether it's just got something to do with an individuals way of how they hear their own narrative in their heads?
    Maybe I don't take enough breaths when I speak because I'm sure I just missed a comma opportunity in the above?
     
  12. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    There are very definite rules about comma's, and If you google 'proper comma usage' you'll get a ton of useful info. If you really wanna brush up on grammar, take a look at Rules for Writers 7th Ed by Diane Hacket. There's two whole chapters about when and when not to use commas, and exceptions.
     
  13. Desertrose
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    Desertrose Member

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    I think I might just do a little googling, yes. It will help to ease my nerves.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's nothing inherently wrong with commas, but it can be a problem to have too many sentences with a similar structure. If you use that structure frequently, you might want to restructure some of them. For example:

    Before the waitress came, he spread a sheaf of envelopes across the table. With a sigh, he reached for the first one.

    Watching him, she stirred her coffee. After it was doctored to her satisfaction, she asked, "How was the meeting?"

    Before he answered, he gathered the envelopes back into a neat stack. Speaking slowly, he said, "It didn't go well."


    The constant phrase-comma-phrase could get tiresome. I change it to:

    Before the waitress came, he spread a sheaf of envelopes across the table. He reached for the first one.

    She stirred her coffee as she watched him. After it was doctored to her satisfaction, she asked, "How was the meeting?"

    He slowly gathered the envelopes into a neat stack. "It didn't go well."


    To me, the first example has a somewhat stifling, sing-song feel. I've changed the action a little - in the second one, I lost a sigh and the slow speech. I don't find that I miss those details, but if I did I could probably get them in while still maintaining variety in sentence structure.
     
  15. jg22
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    jg22 Member

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    Judging from your post, I'd be worrying about apostrophes instead!
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Your example was fine. If in doubt, print it out and read it on paper - I read my novel for the first time a few days ago and suddenly I was deleting loads of commas. I really love my dramatic pauses, for example...

    She decided to buy a tub of cookies, and a few chocolate bars.
    He lay down, and slept.
    The wind blew, and howled like a storm.

    Yeah... many got deleted.
     
  17. Desertrose
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    Desertrose Member

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    Hm, I missed one? Or is it the weird spacing I seem to be in the habit of putting in?
    Oh lordy me, this is going to be a learning experience.
     
  18. cogitatio182
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    cogitatio182 Member

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    Hey, I've wondered this myself frequently. As the majority of people have said, if it sounds correct aloud, you've probably got it. But I will admit, I need to get a resource to return to learning with commas lol. Where do you go for resources on comma usage? Do you recommend any excellent grammar manuals? I've looked over several, but it's been years and I need to brush up on grammar.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'comma's' with an apostrophe is possessive, desert rose [and phoenix]... 'commas' with no apostrophe is the plural...
     
  20. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    Before the rain turned the dirt to mud, she had walked over the path cleanly

    Nothing wrong with commas - but make sure you know where you want your sentence to go before you start writing it. The sentence you wrote as an example does not read very well. It has two seperate subjects - the path and the woman, and things occur to them at different time periods. If there is that much difference between the sentence parts, then it would need two seperate sentences. Or at least write in chronicologically. In all fairness to make what you have written, make sense and sound good, it looks like you'd need to ad quite a bit more information. You might be using a comma to disguse other problems with your writing.
     
  21. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I personally think if you use that slow style constantly it will be a drag for people to read.

    Before the rain turned the dirt to mud, she had walked over the path cleanly

    Imagine a paragraph of X X X, this happened. Over and over.

    'Walking towards me with tears in her eyes, she says: 'I love you.''

    'Hating her with all my heart, I push her away and run out of the house.'

    I don't know. It just seems like it's slowing the sentence down. It's not letting the important stuff come. Always, when I write, I ask myself: what can I take out to make the important stuff happen faster?

    Have you ever read Roy Peter Clark's 50 Writing Tools? I think the first one in that book is always start a sentence with a subject and a verb. Obviously, there aren't set in stone rules. I think once in a while, a sentence like yours can be good. But I wouldn't overuse.
     
  22. Rose Hunt
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    Rose Hunt Member

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    Thanks everyone. Your responses have been helpful.
    darkhaloangel, I'm curious. What problems could be disguised with commas? Perhaps that is the real problem and I haven't recognized it yet. :))
    Rose
     
  23. TheTrain
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    TheTrain Member

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    A game I like to play in order to hone my skill is to re-write a sentence to see if it works better. Sentence structure is the key. I mostly do this in order to omit repetitive words. It also happens to show me flaws or ways to improve. This effects how fast I write since I'll stop every once in a while and think about it, but it does wonders for my work.
     
  24. crashnburn
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    crashnburn Member

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    If your comma usage is completly overboard, one thing you can do is throw a semicolon in there to help keep your sentence from looking so much like a run on. For example, if you wrote:

    The wind blew through the trees, creating a howling sound, and I nearly fainted, which would have sucked.
    becomes
    The wind blew through the trees, creating a howling sound; I nearly fainted, which would have sucked.

    Semicolon usage is largely preference. But I like them. It's an easy way to join two ideas without having to use so many commas.
     
  25. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    The problems disguised are all to do with sentence structure. Perhaps you're trying to cram too many ideas into a structure, or the tense/time frame it wrong (event happening at different times), or the sentence could do with being shorter or longer. Overuse or incorrect use of comma could hide the fact that a sentence actually should be three seperate ones.

    Ideally a sentence should be like a mini story, it is about something, that does something - there is a beginning, a middle and an end. One you reached that end you put a full stop down. If you find more than one thing is doing something, or vise versa then the sentence might need re-evaluating.

    Obviously commas are neccessary, but if you've got into a rut of constructing a sentence in one way, it will lack variation and thus not express what you were intending.
     

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