Fewer commas,

Some grammar rules (and embarrassing mistakes!) transcend the uniqueness of different regions and style guides. This new International Grammar section by OnlineBookClub.org ultimately identifies those rules thus providing a simple, flexible rule-set, respecting the differences between regions and style guides. You can feel free to ask general questions about spelling and grammar. You can also provide example sentences for other members to proofread and inform you of any grammar mistakes.
User avatar
jenjayfromSA
Posts: 199
Joined: 19 Jun 2017, 03:44
2018 Reading Goal: 100
2017 Reading Goal: 24
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 10
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 58
Currently Reading: First Family
Bookshelf Size: 58
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-jenjayfromsa.html
Latest Review: McDowell by William H. Coles
Reading Device: B00JG8GOWU

Re: Fewer commas,

Post by jenjayfromSA » 11 Dec 2017, 02:11

Commas are a problem. When in doubt, read it aloud. I tend to put in commas, then go back and take a few out if I feel it makes the sentence flow better. For example, should there be a comma before then? In the previous comment (above), I would not put a comma after places. Generally I use commas if I think it helps the meaning. Certainly in the comment that started this thread there are FAR too many commas. Very distracting.

User avatar
Paul78
Posts: 555
Joined: 27 Sep 2017, 02:03
2018 Reading Goal: 48
2017 Reading Goal: 8
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 52
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 37
Favorite Book: <a href="http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/shelve ... 38572">Who Told You That You Were Naked?</a>
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 53
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-paul78.html
Latest Review: That Place of Knowledge by Philip Alan Shalka

Post by Paul78 » 17 Dec 2017, 03:29

I agree that the use of commas can be tricky. It calls for extra caution.
I find that I am tempted to use shorter sentences, just to avoid their use.
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
Benjamin Franklin

User avatar
ButterscotchCherrie
Previous Member of the Month
Posts: 2246
Joined: 29 Apr 2017, 02:00
2018 Reading Goal: 104
2017 Reading Goal: 50
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 53
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 50
Currently Reading: Mindfulness and Sleep
Bookshelf Size: 163
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-butterscotchcherrie.html
Latest Review: Finding Paris A Menior of Hope by Paris Broker
Reading Device: B00JG8GOWU

Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 17 Dec 2017, 04:07

Ali B wrote:
10 Dec 2017, 17:32
I read and reviewed a book recently that had so many commas breaking up the sentences. Even the title had a comma!

Example sentence from the very start of the book: Greg had been sending her text messages for some time. Often, they were greetings, in the morning, at night, on school holidays; or good luck wishes on exams, debates, and mock trials.

It continued like this throughout the book and I found it distracting and eventually irritating. I couldn’t work out the authors intention in what I felt was complete overuse of punctuation.

Is it personal preference, something subjective? Or is it grammatical error?
Interesting point! My first thought is that it's grammatically correct. But if you as a reader start to find the punctuation in a book irritating, that tells you something. One point worth considering is whether the sentences could be rewritten with fewer commas. I don't think it would be grammatically correct to give lists such as those in the sentence you quote without commas, so it would have to be radically rewritten, as in: "Greg had been sending her text messages for some time. They were often greetings at different times of day or good luck wishes on various occasions."

Now that would change the style and here we come to the true heart of this matter, I think. This is a lot of "telling". Might it be more effective to "show", as in: "Her phone pinged. She picked it up with a sigh as her suspicion was confirmed: Greg was wishing her a good morning again, nine hours after his last message wishing her a good night." This, of course, starts to indicate that Greg is creepy. If she was loving the attention a different rewrite would be in order. Admittedly, I can't judge without knowing the whole book.

Out of interest, what is the book in question?

User avatar
Ali B
Posts: 24
Joined: 27 Nov 2017, 15:28
Currently Reading: The tree of yoga
Bookshelf Size: 59
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-ali-b.html
Latest Review: "McDowell" by William H. Coles
Reading Device: B00MHI0QGQ

Post by Ali B » 17 Dec 2017, 07:18

ButterscotchCherrie wrote:
17 Dec 2017, 04:07
Ali B wrote:
10 Dec 2017, 17:32
I read and reviewed a book recently that had so many commas breaking up the sentences. Even the title had a comma!

Example sentence from the very start of the book: Greg had been sending her text messages for some time. Often, they were greetings, in the morning, at night, on school holidays; or good luck wishes on exams, debates, and mock trials.

It continued like this throughout the book and I found it distracting and eventually irritating. I couldn’t work out the authors intention in what I felt was complete overuse of punctuation.

Is it personal preference, something subjective? Or is it grammatical error?
Interesting point! My first thought is that it's grammatically correct. But if you as a reader start to find the punctuation in a book irritating, that tells you something. One point worth considering is whether the sentences could be rewritten with fewer commas. I don't think it would be grammatically correct to give lists such as those in the sentence you quote without commas, so it would have to be radically rewritten, as in: "Greg had been sending her text messages for some time. They were often greetings at different times of day or good luck wishes on various occasions."

Now that would change the style and here we come to the true heart of this matter, I think. This is a lot of "telling". Might it be more effective to "show", as in: "Her phone pinged. She picked it up with a sigh as her suspicion was confirmed: Greg was wishing her a good morning again, nine hours after his last message wishing her a good night." This, of course, starts to indicate that Greg is creepy. If she was loving the attention a different rewrite would be in order. Admittedly, I can't judge without knowing the whole book.

Out of interest, what is the book in question?
Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed response. I completely agree, it is difficult to analyse a few sentences without any context.

The book was ‘Hello, my love’ (notice there is even a comma in the title!). I used the example I did, as it was within the first paragraph of the story, however, I could have used many examples from the entire book!

If you feel like it, check out my review and let me know what you think. Thanks
Latest Review: "McDowell" by William H. Coles

User avatar
Umm_Zahra
Posts: 52
Joined: 29 Jun 2017, 03:22
2018 Reading Goal: 20
2017 Reading Goal: 2
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 55
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 50
Favorite Book: <a href="http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/shelve ... 0686">From Drift to SHIFT</a>
Currently Reading: Breaking Point
Bookshelf Size: 28
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-umm-zahra.html
Latest Review: And Then I Met Margaret by Rob White

Post by Umm_Zahra » 29 Dec 2017, 03:21

Sentence fragments are dramatic and mostly found in fiction. I particularly find the use of commas and semi colons burdensome because sometimes, I can't figure out where to use them.

ilovebooks2
Posts: 26
Joined: 08 Feb 2012, 22:37
Favorite Author: Stephen King
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 477
fav_author_id: 2376

Post by ilovebooks2 » 13 Jan 2018, 16:39

Sounds good to me. Reads naturally. Meaning is clear. As long as it's not overused. Oops, I'm doing it now!

User avatar
Dael Reader
Posts: 665
Joined: 05 May 2018, 08:39
Currently Reading: Extraordinary Stories From Everyday People (and me)
Bookshelf Size: 52
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-dael-reader.html
Latest Review: Blues for the Father by Marcel Wilson, Joseph Harrison and Barry Kohl
Reading Device: 1400697484

Post by Dael Reader » 14 Jun 2018, 17:21

In some contexts, it might be fine. But I think I would be more inclined to use a different structure, such as a colon or dash to separate the full sentence from the list.

The house was not without its charms, but there were too many structural problems to justify buying it--a porch that leaned away from the front door, windows that seemed to come from another century than the rest of the house and did not fit, and columns that were off center and soon to crumble.

User avatar
JoshuaLucero
Posts: 1
Joined: 04 Sep 2018, 13:46
Bookshelf Size: 0

Post by JoshuaLucero » 17 Sep 2018, 13:51

Use commas where they are appropriate. If you feel like you have too many, it is a problem with the sentence.

Some of the rules on comma usage are debated and flexible, so you can certainly adopt a style which uses fewer. However, do not arbitrarily remove commas on a sentence-by-sentence basis. Remember, the only hard-and-fast rule of grammar is to be consistent in your use.

User avatar
jgraney8
Posts: 137
Joined: 09 May 2018, 18:08
2018 Reading Goal: 100
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 33
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-jgraney8.html
Latest Review: Betrayal in Blue by Mark M. Bello
Reading Device: B00JG8GOWU

Post by jgraney8 » 19 Sep 2018, 12:40

Dael Reader wrote:
14 Jun 2018, 17:21
In some contexts, it might be fine. But I think I would be more inclined to use a different structure, such as a colon or dash to separate the full sentence from the list.

The house was not without its charms, but there were too many structural problems to justify buying it--a porch that leaned away from the front door, windows that seemed to come from another century than the rest of the house and did not fit, and columns that were off center and soon to crumble.
I like this editing better than the original, but I would go one step further and remove the thats which are making fragments.

The house was not without its charms, but there were too many structural problems to justify buying it--a porch leaned away from the front door, windows seemed to come from another century than the rest of the house and did not fit, and columns were off center and soon to crumble.

In my opinion, the thats are distractions in this construction.
“On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.”
― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

User avatar
Dael Reader
Posts: 665
Joined: 05 May 2018, 08:39
Currently Reading: Extraordinary Stories From Everyday People (and me)
Bookshelf Size: 52
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-dael-reader.html
Latest Review: Blues for the Father by Marcel Wilson, Joseph Harrison and Barry Kohl
Reading Device: 1400697484

Post by Dael Reader » 19 Sep 2018, 17:33

jgraney8 wrote:
19 Sep 2018, 12:40
Dael Reader wrote:
14 Jun 2018, 17:21
In some contexts, it might be fine. But I think I would be more inclined to use a different structure, such as a colon or dash to separate the full sentence from the list.

The house was not without its charms, but there were too many structural problems to justify buying it--a porch that leaned away from the front door, windows that seemed to come from another century than the rest of the house and did not fit, and columns that were off center and soon to crumble.
I like this editing better than the original, but I would go one step further and remove the thats which are making fragments.

The house was not without its charms, but there were too many structural problems to justify buying it--a porch leaned away from the front door, windows seemed to come from another century than the rest of the house and did not fit, and columns were off center and soon to crumble.

In my opinion, the thats are distractions in this construction.
Dael Reader wrote:Good call!

User avatar
fernsmom
Posts: 241
Joined: 07 Sep 2018, 06:17
Favorite Book: Smith
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 47
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-fernsmom.html
Latest Review: Smith by Sam B Miller II
Reading Device: 1400698987

Post by fernsmom » 20 Oct 2018, 08:35

This is actually an interesting question for me since I myself have problems of when to use commas. Perhaps I could just break the sentence into 2 sentences more often and just avoid the comma issue. I do know that one of the books I recently read tended to use the comma I believe (but again I'm not an expert) in the proper way, but the sentences were extremely long in some instances. I was even curious to count the words one time in a sentence and it was 51 words long. I believe that is too long and may be considered a run on sentence?

User avatar
Miriam Molina
Previous Member of the Month
Posts: 4242
Joined: 02 May 2017, 20:17
2018 Reading Goal: 48
2017 Reading Goal: 36
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 143
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 125
Currently Reading: A Stained White Radiance
Bookshelf Size: 543
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-miriam-molina.html
Latest Review: L’Amérique by Thierry Sagnier
Reading Device: B00KC6I06S

Post by Miriam Molina » 20 Oct 2018, 17:13

fernsmom wrote:
20 Oct 2018, 08:35
This is actually an interesting question for me since I myself have problems of when to use commas. Perhaps I could just break the sentence into 2 sentences more often and just avoid the comma issue. I do know that one of the books I recently read tended to use the comma I believe (but again I'm not an expert) in the proper way, but the sentences were extremely long in some instances. I was even curious to count the words one time in a sentence and it was 51 words long. I believe that is too long and may be considered a run on sentence?
There are online sites that have tips on how to use the comma properly. Just because a sentence has 51 words does not automatically make it a run-on sentence. This short sentence is run-on: "I ate I drank." It is also called a fused sentence; when it has a comma after "ate," it will be called a comma splice. Run-on sentences (which may be fused sentences or comma splices, as illustrated) are sentences with two or more independent clauses that are not separated by the proper conjunctions or punctuation marks. I hope this helps.

User avatar
fernsmom
Posts: 241
Joined: 07 Sep 2018, 06:17
Favorite Book: Smith
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 47
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-fernsmom.html
Latest Review: Smith by Sam B Miller II
Reading Device: 1400698987

Post by fernsmom » 20 Oct 2018, 21:05

Thank you for your reply. That does help some and I appreciate your time to help educate me. Believe it or not, I used to be good at English in school. My only excuse is it was eons ago.

User avatar
Eva Darrington
Posts: 1009
Joined: 18 Nov 2017, 11:21
2018 Reading Goal: 50
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 46
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 74
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-eva-darrington.html
Latest Review: Instant Wisdom by Beth Burgess

Post by Eva Darrington » 21 Oct 2018, 20:20

Miriam Molina wrote:
20 Oct 2018, 17:13
There are online sites that have tips on how to use the comma properly. Just because a sentence has 51 words does not automatically make it a run-on sentence. This short sentence is run-on: "I ate I drank." It is also called a fused sentence; when it has a comma after "ate," it will be called a comma splice. Run-on sentences (which may be fused sentences or comma splices, as illustrated) are sentences with two or more independent clauses that are not separated by the proper conjunctions or punctuation marks. I hope this helps.
"Fused sentence" is a new term to me. Good to know. And I thought "run-on sentence" was a much more generic term than it is. I have been using the term incorrectly - to describe painfully long, ambiguous sentences. Now I understand. I learn so much from lurking on this grammar forum! Thank you Miriam Molina.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -Scott Adams

User avatar
Miriam Molina
Previous Member of the Month
Posts: 4242
Joined: 02 May 2017, 20:17
2018 Reading Goal: 48
2017 Reading Goal: 36
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 143
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 125
Currently Reading: A Stained White Radiance
Bookshelf Size: 543
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-miriam-molina.html
Latest Review: L’Amérique by Thierry Sagnier
Reading Device: B00KC6I06S

Post by Miriam Molina » 21 Oct 2018, 21:33

Eva Darrington wrote:
21 Oct 2018, 20:20

"Fused sentence" is a new term to me. Good to know. And I thought "run-on sentence" was a much more generic term than it is. I have been using the term incorrectly - to describe painfully long, ambiguous sentences. Now I understand. I learn so much from lurking on this grammar forum! Thank you Miriam Molina.
I am also happy to have learned a lot of new things since I joined OBC. That's the good that happens when your first editor score is a devastating 15%! And I keep learning, too.

Thank you for the thank-you, Eva!

Post Reply

Return to “International Grammar”