Beginner Writing Tips #2 | Commas!

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It’s been a while since my last one and I felt like posting another after stumbling across a few unfortunate self-published works that seemed to think commas are overrated. 

Disclaimer: I am in no shape or form an expert. I’m doing this mostly because I love sharing tips. 

Sometimes these tips will be specifically aimed towards fanfiction writers.

I have also posted these tips on tumblr before, so if you for some reason should have stumbled upon these, rest assured they haven’t been stolen. Unless someone else stole them from me. Which I doubt. 

Previous posts:

Beginner Writing Tips #1 – Dialogue Punctuation

#2 Commas!

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a comma expert, but I do have a good grasp on the most elementary comma rules so those are the ones I’ll mention here. Correctly placed punctuation makes your writing flow more naturally, and sometimes the meaning of an entire sentence can change because of it, so they’re very important.  

Sometimes where you place a comma is up to you, but a lot of times it’s not. I will give you just a few quick pointers for when to use a comma. 

Separating elements

Examples: “Ian sat up, put his feet on the floor, and walked into the bathroom.”
“I love cats, dogs, and horses.”
“This dress is available in black and blue, white and cold, and this kind of blueish gray.

You might recognize the famous Oxford comma here (the second one). I prefer using it, but it’s up to you. Though sometimes it can completely change the meaning of a sentence, so pay attention to that. You’ve probably all heard the famous example:

We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin. 

We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin. (This implies JFK and Stalin are the strippers)

Addressing a person

Examples: “Ian, come over here for a second.” / “What’s going on, Donna?” / “I don’t know what you think, Will, but I say pizza for dinner.”

This is also the case for sentences like “Whatever, man” and “Come on, dude, don’t be an idiot.”

‘And, well, but, or, so’ etc.

Example: “Well, at least the date wasn’t a complete disaster.” / “That’s cute, but I’ve seen cuter.” / “So, what now?”

There are some languages that have a comma in front of the word ‘that’ (like for instance Danish, and I think German as well?). Remember not to do this when writing in English. There shouldn’t be a comma in the following sentence: “He knew, that his dad would be home early today.” I’m only mentioning this because I remember seeing it somewhere not too long ago.

Punctuation rules differ from language to language so it’s completely understandable if you mess up. 

These are some of the most basic rules that I could think of. There are lots of others out there, but for the beginner, especially if you’re just a fanfic writer, remembering these should make sure your writing is at least readable. If you’re planning on self-publishing a novel then please look up punctuation rules and get an editor or someone else to help you if you’re not sure (actually get an editor and someone to help you anyway). Bad punctuation makes me steer clear of published works but I might look past it if it’s just a fanfic with an otherwise good plot. 

Is correct punctuation important to you? Do you have any other punctuation tips related to this?


6 thoughts on “Beginner Writing Tips #2 | Commas!

  1. Genea @ My Heart Beats For Books says:

    I’m not an expert with punctuation either, but have read self-published books that I kept adding commas and other punctuation in my head, instead of getting into it.

    I’m obsessed with making sure I use my punctuation’s, just not always sure if they’re always used correctly. I always read and re-read my writing to make sure things sound right. Especially after the – ‘However’s, Well’s, But’s and So’s,’ etc. You discussed some rules I wasn’t sure about before, like the comma before ‘and’. Is it always necessary?

    One of the punctuation rules that I all of a sudden wasn’t sure about was, is the close quotation mark placed after the period and the question mark, or before? This was never a problem for me before, but since I’ve become a part of the blogosphere, I’ve become more aware of how and when to use my punctuation’s. What I now need help with is the semicolon. Sometimes my sentences seem to run-on, I usually just start a new sentence, even if it starts with ‘And or But’, instead of using the semicolon.

    Thanks for the tips. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anette says:

      The comma before “and” when you’re making a list isn’t always necessary, but sometimes (like with the stripper example) it can change the meaning of your sentence so keep an eye on that. It’s called the Oxford comma if you want to look more into it. It’s optional, but I prefer to use it to make sure my meaning is clear.

      The semi-colon still confuses me sometimes, so I’m not really the expert when it comes to that one. I was told by one of my university professors to not use semi-colons too often, so I usually just try to avoid them, but every once in a while they can clean up your writing and get rid of some of those conjunction words. The gist of it is that it connects two sentences that could stand on their own but that you want to connect without using words such as “and” or “but”.

      I just found this site that gives a pretty easy explanation! It also mentions other instances where you can use semi-colons than what I said.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aneta says:

    This is so helpful! thanks for this post 🙂
    I write all the time (self-published a book recently), and English being my second language (even though I’ve been here over 20 years) I still feel like I mess up all the time!
    I try to re-read numerous times and find myself changing punctuation constantly 🙂


    • Anette says:

      I’m glad you found it helpful! I have another one of these on dialogue punctuation too if you wanted to check that out. English is my second language too but I make do 😀 Posts and mini lessons like these helped me a lot when I started writing stories when I was younger.

      Liked by 1 person

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