Writer Wednesdays: The dreaded comma

Commas are horrible things. They confuse everyone. People just tend to throw them in whenever the sentence is getting too long, but you have to have a reason for a comma, and “too long” ain’t one of them. Here’s the rules:

  • Between two complete sentences joined with a conjunction (subject/verb, and subject/verb). Yes, identify the subjects and verbs. Come on, you can do it. “He ate.” That’s a subject and a verb. Who and what.
  • When you have several prepositional phrases at the beginning of the sentence (“On the first of the year before the party, we bought dresses”). I was taught to put one after two prep phrases, but I think that’s relaxed somewhat today.
  • After a present participle phrase: “Sitting in the car, the girl looked in the mirror.” BUT make sure the subject of the second part matches the subject of the present participle phrase or you’ll have a dangling modifier: “Applying makeup, the boy couldn’t understand what was taking the girl so long.” The boy is not applying the makeup. The girl is. The boy would be watching the girl: “Watching the girl apply makeup, the boy …”
  • In dialog, when one character is saying something to another and says the person’s name: “I love you, Jennifer.”
  • Between a dependent clause and an independent clause: “When I smell that perfume, I want to throw up.” Remember, a dependent clause depends on the independent clause — think of it as leaning on the independent clause because it only has one leg and can’t stand alone. Repeat it out loud and see if it sounds complete: “When I smell that perfume …” Sound complete? No? Dependent. Use a comma afterward. (Not a period — that results in a sentence fragment.)
  • Before the word “which”: “The dead man’s arm, which was …” I was taught not to use a comma before “that” because it’s a restrictive clause.
Advertisements

About alisaacarter

I am a writer of young adult novels, wife, mom of three, lover of animals, former magazine editor, reader of anything paranormal, and coffee fanatic.
This entry was posted in Writer Wednesdays and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s