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.
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.
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?