Monday, January 4, 2010


Too many commas make me seasick. I don’t do well with sudden and frequent near stops. Ocean waves and curvy roads can be my undoing. (I’m even getting a little nauseated just conjuring up these images).

You can imagine what too many commas do to me. Let’s not even get into semi colons, or I’ll end up in urgent care.

I love the smooth ride, the smooth read. Commas should be used sparingly and correctly. There are specific times to use a comma.

My husband says one of the worst things teachers tell students is to put in a comma to indicate a pause. “Let’s call it garbage,” my writer/editor husband says in keeping with the name of this blog. “The pause rule is just too damn vague,” he says.

Use a comma:

• after an introductory clause.
• in a series.
• between independent clauses that use a coordinating conjunction.
• to offset a non essential clause.

Otherwise you have disrupted your writing flow, and that’s never a good thing.

A buddy of mine wrote something along the lines:

“On Jan. 12 the University of Gibbonsville, will start its newest adventure. That day, a new class on writing will be offered.

I am very proud to say that I will be leading the efforts, of the new writing class.”

He would tell you that he put commas where he paused. Hmmm.

Of the three commas used in these three sentences, one is used correctly. (There’s a possible case to be made for using one after “On Jan. 12,” although I tend to leave commas out in two-to-three-word introductory clauses).

Do you know which commas are used incorrectly?

Unless it’s one of the four instances outlined above, and you’re in doubt, leave the comma out.

Yours in the new year,