You put your comma in, your comma out, in, out, in, out..

As a writers, I know I have to get punctuation correct.  After all, if I can’t follow the simple rules for commas, apostrophes, colons and quotation marks, what chance is there that I can abide by the far more complex rules of theme, characterisation,  “show don’t tell”, foreshadowing and so on?

The bible on this, for me, is Lynne Truss’s excellent book,  ‘Eats, shoots and leaves’. (And now I’m worried that I’ve got the comma and apostrophe and full stop wrong, and Lynne will come after me with her infamous blue pencil.) If you haven’t got it – get it, it will help immensely – and make you laugh.

But, even with this guide, and the numerous web sites on the subject of commas, I felt like Oscar Wilde, who said, “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

The problem was in my novel’s summary.  Should it be:-

1.  She is hurt by his rejection but is encouraged by his words, and accepts that she is no longer isolated and unsure.

Or this:-

2. She is hurt by his rejection but is encouraged by his words and accepts that she is no longer isolated and unsure.

Should there be an ‘Oxford comma’ before the ‘and’? It’s a close call.  Eventually, I settled for the first option, with the comma, because I felt there should be a pause between the two phrases and that they are different statements. But I’m still unsure.  Oh well, another day’s writing, another grey hair…

PS:  just after writing this, I received a letter from a publisher about a short story I’d submitted. I glanced through the manuscript and immediately spotted two missing commas!

Remember the day before we got married when we really quarrelled…

Which should be:-

Remember the day, before we got married, when we really quarrelled…

Note that these have different meanings… “we quarrelled on the day before we got married”  versus “we quarrelled one day, some time before we got married”.  The irony is that the letter was actually an acceptance!

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1 Response to You put your comma in, your comma out, in, out, in, out..

  1. Eddi says:

    Ahh…the comma. Well, sometimes I try to teach commas to my Level 2s. Easy enough with lists, with relative clauses, but then it gets complicated. 18 separate rules and lots of disagreements in the exciting world of grammar. I, too, get them muddled. You are usually the one who corrects me so you must be doing something right!

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