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.
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 Beginners, Llewellyn’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.