Sigrid's Writing Tips

Be Your Own Editor

Ah, commas. How can something so small and seemingly benign make a grown man cry? Seriously, commas can be confusing, but there are some rules of thumb that can be useful.


The Chicago Manual of Style recommends using a comma after every coordinating conjunction (words like and, but, or), but not everyone agrees. Standard Deviants’ Grammar Pitfalls suggests using a comma in a sentence that has more than two conjunctions. Here's an example --

Chicago version: I wonder if anyone is reading my writing tips, and I sometimes feel like swearing like a truck driver to test my theory, but I have faith in my readership.

Deviants' version: I wonder if anyone is reading my writing tips and I sometimes feel like swearing like a truck driver to test my theory, but I have faith in my readership.

Unless you're writing for a newspaper, you can choose the comma style that you like best. The only important thing to remember is consistency. Don't insert commas randomly; make sure that you have a system and stick with it.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of Be Your Own Editor, available on Amazon.com in print and on Kindle (http://tinyurl.com/4v249th).
 
 
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2 comments:

  1. Being consistent is the hard thing I've found, and sometimes I put in too many commas, as I tend to use long sentences, then I have to swap them out for semi-colons; to even it out a bit :)

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  2. Hi Maxine - thanks for stopping by. Yes I do find commas a struggle as well; like you I like my long sentences :-)

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