Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Punctuation: Commas

with 4 comments



I was going to do an elaborate post on imagination, but that can wait for next week. I want to focus this time on the bare bones of writing: punctuation. Here are some hard and fast rules inspired by Dan Ranly. I’ve never been good with the technical language of sentence structure, so I’m going to avoid it and stick only with examples!

Placing Commas

1. Series and lists.

A cat, a dog, and a mouse.

Also when each item is a sentence.

She was beautiful ten years ago, she was beautiful five years ago, and she’s beautiful now.

2. Introductory phrases.

Until the sun rose, he was sleeping; Everyone was asleep, but John was not.

It is optional with a prepositional phrase.

In his earlier years, he was handsome.

It is also optional with introductory adverbs.

Suddenly, it was warm.

3. Interrupting phrases.

The lawn, which was green, was unkempt; Everything was white, a glittering white, and clean.

4. Interjections.

Oh, how fun; Yes, that sounds good; Elizabeth, shut up; You’re funny, too; Alas, I should have laughed.

5. Between two adjectives describing the same thing.

The glowing, bright orange; The tall, awkward girl.

There’s your basic rules for using and placing commas. The general understanding is that if you read the sentence out loud and naturally pause somewhere, a comma probably belongs in that place. Sometimes this doesn’t work (see: interjections) and that’s when knowing the rules can come in handy!


Written by Jessica Lei

November 4, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Punctuation

4 Responses

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  1. Ooh, thank you for these rules! I know most of them (or should), but still trip up sometimes.

    Emy Shin

    November 4, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    • I think everyone does. Somehow I always end up missing the comma before “but.” Not sure how it happens, but it just doesn’t make it on the page!

      Jessica Lei

      November 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm

  2. Commas. God, I think commas are the most difficult piece of punctuation ever, I’ve dealing with them my whole life and I still don’t think I have it right.


    November 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    • I’m not sure anyone can ever get it right haha I think half the battle is being able to go back and see where a comma should be that your mind thought wasn’t necessary at the time.

      But hey, what’re editors for, anyway? 🙂

      Jessica Lei

      November 11, 2010 at 4:20 pm

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