Don’t be a Comma-Masochist! Hire a Commakaze!
You are a writer.
You are a talented, inspired, brilliant writer.
Your heart and mind are painting the paper or the screen with beautiful, deep words.
Your art is ready… right there in front of your eyes… ready to be delivered to your reader’s heart.
To touch your reader’s heart, you must first step through the gate of their mind.
This mind is doing many actions and one of them is hunting errors and mistakes. It is not the reader’s fault, but we, as human beings, are programmed to do this.
Now, tell me… do you want to be an antelope or a lion during this hunting? If you prefer to be the antelope-writer, the solution you have is to write, edit, proofread, format, publish… and a few other challenges on the way. Nevertheless, if you want to be a lion, after your book has covers that can be opened by your readers, you’ll need a Commakaze by your side!
What is a Commakaze?
Maybe, you’re wondering.
I wondered also some time ago.
The word does not belong to me.
It was revealed to me when I met him in my favorite challenge, the place where I obtained my daily blogging addiction fix, 30 Days Blogging Challenge. Not only did I became addicted, but I met so many wonderful writers, writing coaches, marketing coaches, etc, etc. My world has practically changed, thanks to this challenge.
And then… I met him… Gary Thaller… the Commakaze.
He is an editor, a proofreader, a writer, and much more.
His eyes are never missing a comma.
You cannot trick him.
He is even teaching other writers, on his website, how to fight with his friend called the comma… a friend who can transform itself into your book’s worst nightmare.
This human being is destined to fight with commas.
Like a ninja assaulted by mosquitoes, a commakaze will handle the comma battle.
And… believe me… he will always win against those little, friendly, or annoying markings.
Each time when I had to post a comment to him in the group, a sudden fear enveloped my body.
It is a fear that has brought about the “three dots syndrome” inside me (yes, this is my invention… I hope 🙂 ).
Whenever I am unsure whether I need a comma or not, I add to my writing three dots. This way everything looks more dramatic, and my readers, I like to think, are pleased with the results; but the real reason is that I don’t intend to awaken the commakaze’s fighting instincts. No, he never jumped on any of my text without a formal request, but… I can feel his thoughts.
What is a Comma?
First of all… for me, a comma is something that I thought I handled very well. Until one day… not too long ago… when the one and only real Commakaze I ever met, announced a contest. I jumped inside it, thinking that I will make him say… “Wow! What a brilliant writer… she knows it all… she’s the perfect ‘one man orchestra’!”
What do you think the contest was about?
Commas… of course, commas.
The task was to discover the missing commas in a sample text.
It is not important to mention if and how many I found.
What I think is more important… is the fact that, after I found whatever I could find, I realized what Hitchcock’s characters, from his movie “Birds”, were feeling.
I, now, see around me only commas.
They are everywhere… screaming, attacking, and asking for their rights.
What is a comma?
Well… a comma is a… comma!
I don’t know any other English word to express the depth of its essence.
Adding a comma, you can change everything.
Deleting a comma and your book can jump into another plot, other than what you expected it to be.
Therefore, you can confuse the reader easily.
If the reader is confused… this is not a good thing… not good at all.
While trying to finish my variant for the contest, I made some research. I had to extract, and put together all sorts of rules. For this, I found a very good source which I recommend with all my heart, www.grammarly.com.
They say… A comma is a “soft stop”. It is not as final as a period. It is used to connect new ideas to old ones and to tell the reader when to pause for a moment in their thinking (or in their speech, if they’re reading out loud). In long sentences, it is also used to separate clauses, so the reader understands which modifiers apply to which words, etc.
Comma Usage and Rules
For each rule you see in the list below, you can find more details, here:
Commas separate ideas or nouns (as in a list).
If you’re repeating words for emphasis, a comma will separate the repeated words so it’s clear you haven’t made a typo.
A comma can change the person to whom you are speaking into the person about whom you are speaking, and determine the rest of the punctuation in the sentence.
A comma can tell the reader to pause for a brief moment because what you’re about to say will add another mind-boggling idea.
Commas are also used to offset information (such as found in an appositive or an introductory clause).
A comma shouldn’t separate a subject from its verb. Separating the subject and its verb with a comma is a mistake generally made if the subject clause is long, and if the subject already has a verb in it (as part of a relative clause). Exception: The only time you may separate a subject from its verb is if the verb from the subject clause is repeated.
Don’t separate two nouns in a compound subject, or two objects, with a comma. There can be more than one subject or object in a sentence.
Don’t put a comma between two verbs in a compound predicate. There can be more than one verb in a predicate.
If two independent clauses are to be joined into one sentence, they should be separated by a conjunction or a semi-colon, or possibly even a conjunction and a comma. They can also be separated into two sentences by a period. Using a comma causes a comma splice. Exceptions: Comma splices can be used for artistic or poetic effect, as when one is connecting several short independent clauses. Don’t do this in a formal composition, though; it’s only for creative writing. (If you’re going to pull this off in formal writing, try using a semi-colon.)
Comma splices may also be used if the two independent clauses are somehow contrasting, as when following a statement with a question.
Introductory clauses are dependent clauses which are found at the beginning of the sentence (although they can be moved to the end of the sentence, too, without confusing the meaning of the sentence). After a dependent introductory clause, we use a comma to separate the introductory clause from the independent clause. The dependent introductory clause may start with an adverb or conjunction like although, if, or when.
Introductory clauses frequently begin with a conjunction (although, since, when, if, etc.) There should be no comma after the conjunction in the introductory clause.
Dependent introductory clauses which include a date should be offset by a comma. The date can be a year or the date of the month.
An introductory phrase is like a clause, but it doesn’t have its own subject and verb; it relies on the subject and verb in the main clause. Unless the phrase is very short (fewer than 5 words) and begins with a preposition (to, for, at, etc.), there should be a comma between the introductory phrase and the main clause. You can use your own judgment here: if you were saying the sentence out loud, would you pause after the introductory phrase?
After an introductory word, we use a comma to separate the introductory word from the independent clause. The introductory word in the sentence will frequently be an adverb.
A comma shouldn’t be used within a comparison (unless there is a non-restrictive clause). Writers will sometimes put a comma before a conjunction as this is where speakers will naturally pause for emphasis; when writing, the pause is considered grammatically incorrect.
Interrupters are little thoughts in the middle of a thought, added to show emotion, tone or emphasis. When we use an interrupter in the middle of the sentence, it should be emphasized with commas. Without the use of commas, the flow of the sentence may be awkward for the reader. Interrupters are easily identified by saying the sentence out loud; you’ll naturally pause where the commas should be.
When two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction (e.g. and, but, or, so), there must be a comma before the conjunction, or it will be a run-on sentence. Independent clauses are complete sentences; if you could put a period after the clause but have instead used just a conjunction, then you’ve created a run-on sentence.
When we have a statement which we want someone to agree with, we add a few words on the end, turning it into a question. These few words are called question tags. These are words like isn’t it/he/she, or right, or even yes or no. These question tags should be separated from the main clause by a comma.
An appositive is a noun or pronoun (perhaps with some adjectives, etc.) which adds extra information to clarify a noun in the sentence.
When writing a date, a comma is used to separate the day from the month, and the date from the year.
When one has several coordinate adjectives (i.e. a list of adjectives which do not have to be in any particular order), a comma is used to separate them. This is done for clarity and emphasis.
Complex sentences are sentences which have two clauses. There can be two independent clauses (each having a subject and predicate), or an independent clause and a dependent clause (missing a subject or predicate). Generally, if the dependent clause comes second, a comma is not used before the dependent clause. Frequently, but not always, a conjunction will begin the dependent clause. Exception: If the sentence is too long or confusing without a comma, one may be used for purposes of clarity.
A compound subject is a subject which lists more than one thing. Commas may be used within the compound subject to separate the nouns, but should not be used between the subject and the predicate of the sentence.
If there are only two things in a list, they do not need to be separated by a comma. If there are more than two ideas, the comma should be used as it would in a list. (See Oxford Comma.)
A comma should be placed before the word but only if but is at the beginning of an independent clause.
When creating a list of two or more things, commas should be used to separate each category in the list. There is no formula for this: you must use logic and reason to understand the categories. Some sentences use several verbs, so the commas will separate the items which belong to a different verb. Some items can be separated by adjectives. Frequently, errors of this nature occur between the last two items, so look before the and (see Oxford Comma). N.B. American English requires the use of a comma before the last and in a list; British English does not. Be sure to follow local protocol, particularly in formal writing.
A verb should not be separated from its object (the thing or person which is receiving the verb). To figure out what the object of the sentence is, ask yourself this: what is the subject doing?
A non-restrictive clause is a clause which may offer more information, but doesn’t limit the subject; this might be something of interest, such as how old something is or a job a person has. A non-restrictive clause may use the word which and can be removed from the sentence without loss of understanding. Non-restrictive clauses are generally separated from the rest of the sentence by commas (while restrictive clauses are not).
A restrictive clause is a clause which limits a subject; this might be something identifying, such as the color of a person’s hair, or the position of a book on a table. A restrictive clause may use the word that, and cannot be removed from the sentence without loss of information.
Correlative pairs of conjunctions include words like neither…nor, not…but, and both…and. For this punctuation rule, we can also consider sets of words like not only…but also. When pairs or sets of conjunctions are being used, they do not need to be separated from each other by a comma. However, a comma may be used between the conjunctions to accommodate another grammar rule. Exception: If two commas are around a non-restrictive clause, they may be used between the correlative pairs of conjunctions.
A group of words which offers a contrast to the subject of the sentence may need to have a comma on either side to separate it from the main idea. Look for words such as not, unlike and never; these signify a contrasting idea. By putting a comma on either side, the contrasting idea is made clear to the reader, and the subject is clearly modified.
When quoting, it must be made clear to the reader who said (or wrote or thought) whatever is being quoted; this is done by using “attributive tags”. Look for words like he said, he claimed and according to. Attributive tags can be at the beginning or end of the quote, or even in the middle (in which case you would use a comma before and after the attributive tag). American convention generally places commas outside opening quotation marks and inside closing quotation marks.
We usually use a comma to separate a quote from an attributive tag (e.g. he thought, said he), even if the quote would usually end in a period. However, if the quote is a question, a question mark needs to be used in order to show the reader that the sentence is a question. If there is a question mark, there is no need to use a comma as well; in this case, the attributive tag should come immediately after the closing quotation marks. The same rule applies to exclamation points, which are required if the reader is to understand the tone the speaker is using.
In American English, commas from a quote always go inside the quotation marks.
Parentheses are used to give additional information to the reader: information which is not required and which would disrupt the flow of the sentence if written as a non-restrictive clause. Commas may be placed after the closing parenthesis but not before either the opening or the closing parenthesis. If the sentence would not require any commas if the parentheses were removed, the sentence should not have any commas when the parentheses are added.
Commas are used to separate thoughts or ideas, or to tell the reader when to pause. Articles are used to refer to a noun, so the article can’t really be separated from the noun as it is all part of the same idea. The articles in English are the, a and an. Nouns are a person, place or thing.
Oxford Comma – Originally used by Oxford University Press, this is the comma which is used before and in a list. British English doesn’t use the Oxford comma. It certainly has its purpose when used to eliminate confusion, but it is used consistently – whether it’s required for clarity or not. American English insists on the use of the Oxford comma.
As well as Comma – The phrase as well as creates one of those situations where you may have to make a judgment call about comma usage. As a general rule, it doesn’t need a comma before it unless it’s a part of a non-restrictive clause.
Such as Comma – The phrase such as only requires a comma in front of it if it’s part of a non-restrictive clause.
When using the word too, you only need to use a comma before it for emphasis.
Enough! Enough! I cannot resist anymore.
Only listing the rules, and I have a headache.
Do I need to mention what chaos will be in my head if I try to correctly apply all the rules?
Yes, I have a good instinct and I, usually, add commas in all the necessary places, but… will my book be the same if instead of letting my mind fly, I will concentrate on so many other technical details?
Why do I need to bother myself with this?
A writer is a writer. He needs inspiration and a method to put his inspiration on paper.
A book is a book and it needs commas, also.
Who says a writer must be a one-man-orchestra?
Are you a writer?
If you have read up to here, I suppose you are.
Then, do yourself a favor and don’t bother with all the details.
Better, hire a commakaze!
M.C. Simon is an author, blogger, project manager and researcher. She loves to study different subjects and different domains. This passion helped her succeed in her first year of becoming a blogger and a published author, starting from the ground level. [Learn More]
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