Writer’s Craft #10 Commas
Commas. I’ve read the grammar books. I’ve prepared cheat sheets for using them correctly, and I’ve presumed to correct other people on where the pesky things get placed. But the more I write the less I think I’ve got the comma nailed.
Sometimes I wonder if anyone really knows when a comma is necessary and when it’s optional, and sometimes I think real sentences simply resist belonging to any of the well-defined categories.
So here’s the plan for getting us to help each other with the comma thing. I’ll start off by giving some examples I feel confident about, and I want you to add to the list.
Eler, the brother of the liege of Nersal, loves poetry too much to be a proper Nersallian.
The appositive is something that could substitute for a name. In this case, “the brother of the liege of Nersal” could be used instead of Eler. Used as an appositive, it provides a descriptive element. Appositives should be set off with commas.
#2 before a conjunction
She had hardly been able to draw breath when she saw Vic – of all people! – strike Amel, but by the time she recovered from the shock she had no time to do anything but get out.
Place a comma before a conjunction. The most common conjunctions are ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘but’. Personally, I leave this comma out in the case of very short sentences.
She saw Vic strike Amel but couldn’t stop him.
Your turn! Add a type of comma you are confident about. Or ask a question about one you aren’t.
And remember to e-mail your questions, suggestions or offers to guest feature on The Clarion Writer’s Craft to firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the word ‘Clarion’ in the subject line.