If there’s one thing we’ve noticed, it’s that people love to complain about commas. Maybe it’s because they find them daunting or maybe it’s because they want to share their frustration. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t matter. We love commas. As writers, we especially treasure them since they can make all the difference in how effective our writing is. While it’s important to know the purpose of each comma, it’s also important to understand how to effectively use them within a sentence. Hopefully, this article will give you the knowledge you need to confidently use commas in your writing and allow you to truly express yourself fully.
Why Use Commas At All?
Let’s start from the beginning. Before the invention of the printing press, people had to read everything out loud. This was particularly difficult when reading a book (we’ll get to that in a bit). Without proper punctuation, it would be easy to confuse people, or worse, mispronounce words. In fact, with all the spelling errors and awkward phrasing, it’s not hard to see how William Shakespeare’s popularity soared after his work was printed. Not only that, but punctuation was also limited to the use of periods and commas. No question marks, no exclamation points, and definitely no hyphens. In other words, it was a world of comma hell. Everyone has to deal with commas, but they especially hate them in English classes because they’re often used incorrectly. This is why using commas in your writing can be so frustrating. You’re right – they’re not supposed to act as sentence separators, but they often do. This is especially true when texting, where they are known as the “crack” of any sentence. It really does feel like you’re texting with Shakespeare every day. Sometimes, you just want to go on a murder spree, hitting anyone and everyone with a typewriter.
How To Use A Comma
As we’ve established, commas are annoying. This is why learning how to use them effectively is so crucial for budding authors and anyone who interacts with the public on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at some of the most common errors people make when it comes to commas, shall we?
Using too many commas is very common and it’s considered overly punctual. For example, let’s say you have a sentence that reads: “The sky is the limit, literally.” The right punctuation here would be a comma, but you’ve used three commas in a row, so it doesn’t look right. The rule of thumb is once you’ve got two or more commas in a row, you’ve gone over the top and it isn’t effective to stop there. If you’ve got an extra comma at the end of a sentence, that means you’ve used too many and it doesn’t sound right either. In most cases, using too many commas will make your writing seem sloppy and unprofessional. Keep the number of commas to a minimum and you’ll sound polished and professional.
Another common mistake people make is misusing commas. For example, let’s say you’ve written a short story and you want to end it on a funny note. You’ve used all these commas to build suspense, wondering if the character will show up or not. When the moment of truth arrives and your protagonist does show up, it’s a letdown. You’re not prepared for this twist, but that’s what makes it a twist. It’s a common occurrence for writers to forget that commas are not supposed to be used this way. It would be more effective to use a different punctuation mark such as a period or a question mark.
Even when you’re writing in a relaxed manner, using too many commas can still make your writing seem over-conscious. For example, let’s say you’ve written a letter to a friend and you want to end it on a sweet note. You’ve written this down in your own words and now you’re trying to fit it into a formal letter format. When you do this, you’ll see that all the commas have been used, and it doesn’t sound right. If you’re concerned that your writing seems overwrought, take a step back and reread what you’ve written. Try to identify places where you can simplify your language and remove unnecessary words. If you still feel that your writing needs help, ask someone for feedback. This could be a professional editor, your friend, or a family member. Ideally, you’d want someone who is not attached to the story in any way to provide this feedback because they’ll be objective about your work.
These are just some of the more common mistakes people make when it comes to commas. If you want to use them correctly, it’s important to learn when and where to use them. To start, try to use commas to divide words or phrases that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. For example, suppose you’re writing about a character who is very extroverted and you want to use a comma to separate the character’s name from the rest of the sentence: “The extroverted character was excited to meet the new people and she introduced them to one another.” In this case, you’d use a comma to separate the character’s name because it doesn’t contribute to the meaning of the sentence, but it is essential for identification: “The extroverted character, Emily, was excited to meet the new people and she introduced them to one another.”
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand how to use commas in your creative writing. Even if you’re incredibly lucky and nobody ever uses commas to criticize your work, you’ll still want to use them effectively, right? Punctuation is important because it helps people understand your writing. Using too many commas can ruin any effect you’re trying to create and make your story seem rushed and unprofessional. As writers, we’re always looking for ways to improve our craft and using commas is a great way to begin. Thanks for reading! We hope this article has helped you.