I Dread Punctuation – Part 1

I get confused with punctuation, so I just ignore them. My editor, Chantal, spends more time adding commas, than actually editing. I also get confused with commas and semicolons and those dashes. What’s with the dash?

Since I call myself a writer, I thought I should at least learn the punctuation rules. It might come in handy. I did some research and this is what I came up with. (I know I’m going to get comments on this post).

Commas have different uses, which is partly what makes them so confusing. Another thing that makes them confusing is that some things are hard-and-fast rules—like don’t put a comma between a subject and a verb—and other things are more like guidelines.

The “rules” about serial commas are an example of a guideline. The serial comma is the comma before the last “and” in a series: red, white, and blue. That last comma before the “and” is called a serial comma, Oxford comma, or Harvard comma. Some people say to always use it and other people say to only use it when leaving it out would cause confusion. It’s a style choice. Considering I’m comma adverse, I leave them out.

I’ve been told, “Willie, just put a comma everywhere you’d pause”.  Unfortunately, that rule is not correct. You do typically pause when you’re reading a sentence out loud and you come across a comma, but that doesn’t mean that every time you’d pause when you’re speaking, your sentence needs a comma.

Now, appositives (a noun, noun phrase, or series of nouns placed next to another word or phrase to identify or rename it) often need commas. For example: My phone, a Samsung, fell into the toilet. The  appositive is “a Samsung” because it names my phone.

Appositives can be restrictive or nonrestrictive. When they’re doing this kind of direct renaming, they’re nonrestrictive and need a comma. Nonrestrictive appositives are nonessential and can be left out of the sentence without changing the meaning. Restrictive appositives are essential. For example: My friend Ralph is meeting me for lunch.

If you remove Ralph, you have no way of knowing which friend I’m talking about (unless you know I only have one friend). No comma is needed.

Next I’m tackling semicolons.


2 thoughts on “I Dread Punctuation – Part 1

  1. Fran says:

    I am reminded of that Boy Goerge song from the 80’s: Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon. You come and go. You come and go….


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