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Easy to understand comma rules

There 13062320_10153406837180216_1298391541701636790_nare a lot of great writers out there but only so many novels and short stories that book companies can publish. To prevent your piece from having a competitive disadvantage, you’ll want to ensure it is as publishable as possible when the editor picks it up. That includes ensuring your piece follows all of those punctuation and capitalization rules that back in grammar school that led us to many a daydream about being on an exotic alien world or hunting dinosaurs in the Jurassic.

Not following these rules instantly makes your story more difficult to read. And despite a great plot line and descriptions, your editor will be thinking of how much time he’s going to have to spend correcting your work – time he doesn’t really have. When there’s another piece in a pile of submissions that probably is as good as yours, he’s likely to set aside your story in favor of one that won’t overburden him.

During my editing experience, I’ve seen the same set of capitalization and punctuation errors repeated in many pieces. Here’s a list of them regarding commas.

Attribution
If a quotation that is a single sentence is split by attribution, use a comma after the attribution.
• RIGHT: “Luke of Tatooine,” called Obi-wan Kenobi, “use the force!”
• WRONG: “Luke of Tatooine,” called Obi-wan Kenobi.“Use the force!”

• RIGHT:“Luke of Tatooine, use the force!” said Obi-wan Kenobi.“Only then can you defeat Darth Vader!”
• WRONG: “Luke of Tatooine, use the force!” said Obi-wan Kenobi, “only then can you defeat Darth Vader!”

Before words of address in quotations/dialogue, place a comma before the name of the person being addressed. This often helps separate the name of who is being addressed from a preposition that comes before it.
• RIGHT: “We don’t know where they came from, Mr. Spock.”
• WRONG: “We don’t know where they came from Mr. Spock.”

If the attribution comes before the quotation, set off the attribution with a comma.
• RIGHT: Han Solo grinned then added, “You’re surrounded.”
• WRONG: Han Solo grinned then added “You’re surrounded.”

Compound sentence
Use a comma before the conjunction (and, but, or) if a complete sentence can be made out of the words on either side of the conjunction.
• RIGHT: The elder man’s face paled, and at last his breathing froze.
• WRONG: The elder man’s face paled and at last his breathing froze.
• RIGHT: The elder man’s face paled and then stiffened.
• WRONG: The elder man’s face paled, and then stiffened.

Too
Generally the word “too” is set off with commas.
• RIGHT: Christopher Pike was captain of the USS Enterprise, too.
• RIGHT: Christopher Pike, too, was captain of the USS Enterprise.
• WRONG: Christopher Pike was captain of the USS Enterprise too.
• WRONG: Christopher Pike too was captain of the USS Enterprise.

Who
Generally, phrases beginning with “who” are set off with commas when they appear after the name of the person to “who” refers.
• RIGHT: He thought of that day at the spaceport when he’d said goodbye to his father, who was returning to Star Service duty.
• WRONG: He thought of that day at the spaceport when he’d said goodbye to his father who was returning to Star Service duty.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Des Moines, Iowa, or a small town like Whynot, Mississippi, I can provide that second eye.

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