Are You a Comma Commando?

Stop! You're tripping up your reader!

Krista Bennett

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Photo by Author

Have you ever, read an article, or post, where the writer intentionally, or unintentionally, overused commas?

(Poorly written opening sentence intended for effect.)

Doesn't it just slow you down? It's a drag to read, literally.

Writers typically overuse commas because they don't understand how to split clauses or end their ideas effectively.

The result is the chaining together of ideas with a comma used as a verbal pause, rather than where it is logically appropriate.

I've discovered that I am an automatic comma overuse.

I use commas where I pause in thought, as I am actually thinking, rather than coordinating clauses and extending details off of independent thoughts.

Commas are supposed to be used before conjunctions to help coordinate clauses. Unfortunately, many writers, myself included, forget the function of conjunctions and end up using words that appear to be a conjunction with an inappropriately placed comma, such as the word "and."

A comma is necessary if you are inserting a dependant clause into a sentence such as "I went to the store to buy coffee, and wound up buying a bunch of other groceries." But not for a sentence such as "I went to the store and bought coffee and milk."

An acronym to help you remember the primarily coordinating conjunctions is FANBOYS.

For

And

Nor

But

Or

Yet

So

Many writers, myself included, have a habit of also placing commas in the following (often) inappropriate places:

  • Between the subject and verb of a sentence;
  • Before a preposition;
  • After any number.

I would expect that the number one cause of comma overusage is using it as a verbal pause where the writer is writing the way they are actually thinking, rather than coordinating clauses and extending details off of independent thoughts. Writers often write in the spoken language rather than in the much more carefully coordinated written language. ~Travis Knight, MsED, BA, BS, Certified Reading Specialist

If I had a dollar for every comma stricken during editing, I'd be a rich woman!

Are you a comma commando too?

Krista Bennett is a Jr. Editor for Middle-Pause, Admin for Seven Months to 156, my journey to better health, writer, photographer, boy-mom-coffeeholic with an acute affection for cats.

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