You Might Be a Writer . . . If You Agonize Over Commas

A fellow writer took exception to my comma usage in Light Bringer.  I reviewed the first page or two of the book but didn’t change anything. If ever I were to sell the book, I will do what my copy editor suggests; until then, the commas remain where they are. I know I used a lot of them, but each one was painfully earned. While writing and rewriting the novel, I would take them out, agonize over them, then put them put them back. The next day I would repeat the process all over again.

There are many rules for comma usage, the main ones being to use a comma between all terms in a series, before the conjunction when joining independent clauses, and to set off parenthetical remarks. I do not need to give you examples; you probably know more about commas than I do. But despite all the rules that have been formulated for commas, there is one overriding rule: use a comma to prevent confusion.

In other words, follow the rules until you can’t follow the rules. Clarity is more important than any punctuation rule.

Beyond clarity, the commas in Light Bringer were used for pacing. I could have used short sentences at the beginning, but short sentences evoke action, and someone driving at night on snowy, unplowed, unlit roads would not be moving quickly. I could have used run-on sentences, but they have a breathless quality, and also seem to evoke speed. Again, not what I wanted. So what I was left with was commas.

A lot of commas. Maybe I really should take some out.

Or not.

One Response to “You Might Be a Writer . . . If You Agonize Over Commas”

  1. GoingLikeSixty Says:

    I agree, comma usage should be decided by copy editors.
    Or not.

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