Tag Archives: commas

SpewagE – Cool Commas

Let’s continue the SpewagE series on the blog – because there is so much to talk about and unpack.

Spelling, Proofreading, Editing, Writing, Apostrophes, Grammar, and English. “SpewagE.” I capped the last E because that’s how the art came out. 

Cool Commas

Commas are so cool, so gnarly, and so groovy. But, why so confusing? 

We can talk about commas all the live-long day. There are transitional expressions, absolute phrases, commas in dates and addresses and numbers, in titles, with coordinating conjunctions, coordinate adjectives, interrogative phrases, and in series, and yikes, the list goes on and on and on. 

I had general ideas for this Cool Commas blog, but I also referred to my Strunk and White, Elements of Style and my favorite reference of all time, Rules for Writers by Diana Hacker. 

Here are a few basic examples, reflected from checking in with those two tomes and my own experience with having a Mom and Ang who constantly told me to “Look it up” and then made me look it up. 

Simple – And 

I am old, and I am beautiful.

Both underlined segments are stand alone. In other words, “I am old” is a sentence, and “I am beautiful” is a sentence. So, I add the comma before the “and.” 

I am old and beautiful.

“I am old” is a sentence, but “beautiful” cannot stand alone. So, no comma before the “and.”

Simple – But 

Same basic idea as “and” above. 

I am old, but I am feisty and politically engaged. (Both before and after the “but” are full sentences.) 

I am old but feisty and politically engaged. (Just the first part, “I am old” is a full sentence.) 

The serial or Oxford comma

I will give up my Oxford comma when you pry it from my cold, dead, and gnarled hand. 

The Oxford comma is the second comma after “dead.” 

Example of why I honor and continue to utilize the Oxford comma in a series: 

“I love my parents, James Taylor and Carly Simon.” (Indicates my parents are James Taylor and Carly Simon.)

“I love my parents, James Taylor, and Carly Simon.” (Indicates I love all three.) 

You could also change it up and write, “I love James Taylor, Carly Simon, and my parents.”

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Do you typically wing it when it comes to comma placement, or do you have rules?  

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A dragon-sized thank you to Shawn MacKenzie who has been editing and proofreading all these SpewagE blogs since I started them September 5, 2021. Shawn is the author of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook, Dragons for BeginnersLlewellyn’s Little Book of Dragons, and the upcoming Tarot of Dragons (about which you’ll be hearing more in the months to come), as well as numerous other fictions and essays.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

Quick Editorial Tips

For nearly every client – especially those for whom I am doing a beta-read or full edit – I write an Editorial Letter. In that Editorial Letter, I note (among other things):

Writing Problems

Repeated Bad Habits

Recurrent Punctuation Snafus

For those of you about to send your manuscript to an editor, here are a few things to check and/or avoid:

Overuse of pronouns

If you have more than one SHE and more than one HE in a scene, chapter, whatever, and all you use is he/she throughout. I’m confused. Your readers will be confused too.

List of Chapters

You have a list of chapters at the beginning of the book, say 30 chapters. But the book has 31 chapters. Oops.

If you are going to list chapters at the beginning of your novel, check and double check that the chapters in the Contents agree with the number of chapters in the novel.

If you name your chapters, make sure they translate from Contents to text.

Michael or Mike?

Throughout the book you call a dude “Michael.” Then in one chapter you use “Mike.”

I’m thinking, “Who’s Mike?”

Or you spell a character’s name Karen and then later you call her Karin.

Ellipsis …

A mark used to indicate that something has been omitted from a text.

Why are so many writers using these … on every dang page?

Or in one place you have…. and then you have ……. and then in another place you have …and then in another place…

If you must use the dot-dot-dot, then make them the same throughout the manuscript. Type them with a space before/space after or no space before/no space after. And the same number of dot-dot-dots.

Consistency. That’s the ticket!

Moving on …

Continue on

This is one of those things my Mother would chide me about. Continue ON is redundant. Or lift UP. Or drop DOWN. Or jump OVER.

Learn to use commas

And then you can break the rules – if you want to.

Good resources –

Diane Hacker, Rules for Writers

Strunk & White, The Elements of Style


He sat in a dark, red velvet, plush, antique chair with a heavy, green, cable-knit sweater around his shoulders with a well-worn, old, leather-bound book on his lap.

Okay, this is an exaggeration. But still. Some of y’all are using way too many adjectives.

I’m reminded of Anton Chekhov: Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Show, don’t tell.


Stayed tuned for more Quick Editorial Tips. A special Thank You to editor Shawn MacKenzie for her beta-read on this blog post.

See her Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photos from pb_homepage, BryBuy8, and lenakhalid – Photobucket.


Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, literary, historical, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips