A lot of people seemed to like my post on how to use past perfect tense, so I wanted to continue today with another grammar rundown. I’m going to go through some common comma issues I see in manuscripts. I know we are getting into the weeds a little with grammar, but it’s amazing how some small tweaks to your manuscript will help sentence structure, story understanding, and an overall better reading experience for your reader. Misplacing or misusing a comma can alter the meaning of a sentence, so yeah, they’re pretty important.
Comma Splice: Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet). A comma splice is when a comma without a conjunction joins two separate sentences. A comma splice is incorrect. There are a few ways to correct a comma splice. One way is to use a semicolon to connect the two clauses without using a conjunction. You can also break the sentence into two separate sentences.
Examples that are all correct:
- My favorite book releases soon, and I am so excited.
- My favorite book releases soon; I am so excited.
- My favorite book releases soon. I am so excited.
Serial Comma: Use commas to separate words and groups of words with a series of three or more.
- This book has awesome dialogue, plot, and characterization.
- Sebastian, Biggie, and Loki are my four legged babies.
Using commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun: This is a big one all writers should pay attention to. Use a comma to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be careful not to add a comma before the final adjective and the noun or between non-coordinate adjectives. Here’s a helpful hint: if the word and can be inserted between the two adjectives, use a comma. If you can swap the adjectives around and they still make sense, use a comma. A coordinate adjective separately modifies the noun that follows it. Cumulative adjectives do not modify the noun that directly follows it.
- This is a strong, funny manuscript.
- He wrapped me in an amazing power hug. *You do not use a comma here because they are non-coordinate, and you can’t say, “He wrapped me in an amazing and power hug.
Comma to separate essential phrases and clauses: An essential phrase or clause is used to modify the noun. It also adds critical information to the sentence. You do not set essential phrases or clauses off with commas.
- The people who work in publishing are awesome.
A nonessential phrase or clause adds extra information to the sentence. The phrase or clause can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. You should always set nonessential phrases or clauses off with commas.
- Hugs and Chocolate, an awesome blog, is a great community. *Hugs and Chocolate is named, so the description is nonessential.
I could go on and on. There is so much information out there, but this is a good start. Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll answer them in the comments.