Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same.
More than one person, doubtless like me,
writes in order to have no face.

Michel Foucault

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

COMMAS ARE NOT PAUSES

I first heard this in a critique classroom with John Dufresne. He holds a Friday Night Critique class worth every wannabe writer's time if you want to learn the art. Commas are not pauses...it took a minute to analyze what that meant, but after reviewing and improving my understanding of grammar, it is becoming more clear...or is that clearer. Anyhow, whatever it is, it is.

Here are three (although there are probably more) myths:

  • Long sentences need a comma. A really long sentence may be perfectly correct without commas. The length of a sentence does not determine whether you need a comma.
  • You should add a comma wherever you pause. Where you pause or breathe in a sentence does not reliably indicate where a comma belongs. Different readers pause or breathe in different places.
  • Commas are so mysterious that it's impossible to figure out where they belong! Some rules are flexible, but most of the time, commas belong in very predictable places.

    Here are some comma rules if we have to have rules. Personally, I don't like rules--I am a writer and not a grammar lieutenant. I write what I write the best way I can write and then let an editor figure out if it needs more or less commas.

    Another interesting site is listed on the side bar of this blog. Check it out. In the between time, write some words.






2 comments:

  1. I like to have some flexibility about commas, but there are some general rules to it.

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  2. I agree. While I understand (for the most part) the general rules, I do like to have flexibility. Rather, I'm beginning to not stress the placement within sentences--unless, of course, it muddies the meaning (makes one read again and again to try to understand).

    PE

    ReplyDelete

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