Saturday, May 19, 2007
How-to Tip For Writers
Punctuation proves to be a huge stumbling block for many writers. One thing I notice a lot in the stories I crit and e-books I read is the misuse of the poor little comma. The comma is such a misunderstood punctuation mark. When you have a subject that is doing two actions seperated by and do not place a comma between the first action and the and. For example, this sentence is incorrect:
The dog barked, and pulled against its leash.
Why writers insist on putting a comma in such a sentence truly stymies me. Dog is the subject and the subject is both barking and pulling. No comma is needed. However, if you have a succession of actions by the same subject, then commas are required.
The dog barked, pulled against its leash, and wet on the ground.
Test time! Which of the following sentences are wrong?
1. She sat down at the table and picked up a fork.
2. The clock struck midnight and Gloria snatched up her coat realizing she was late.
3. John walked to the door, and answered it.
4. Running across the lawn, the girl tripped and fell.
Now, if you picked numbers 2 and 3 as the incorrect sentences for comma usage, then you get a big purple zinnia (Hey, it's my version of a gold star.) for your good work, lol.
The first sentence is correct because the subject she sat down and picked up the fork, so she is doing *both* actions. The second sentence is wrong because two different subjects are doing two different things, so a comma is needed after midnight to seperate it from Gloria.
The third sentence is wrong because John walked to the door *and* answered it, thus he's the subject performing two actions. No comma is needed! And in the last sentence, we have a participle phrase, followed by the subject who both trips and falls. The only place a comma is need is after the participle phrase.