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 November, 2002

Comma Usage

by Sandy Tritt


The comma appears to be a harmless little fellow, but don't let appearances deceive you. Sure, the little guy never shouts, never declares, never questions, never even finishes a sentence, for that matter, but that doesn't mean he holds no power. In fact, he is the hardest working of all the punctuation marks, the only one often appearing more than once in a single sentence. He holds the power to change the meaning of a sentence and to disrupt the flow of prose. Therefore, isn't it time to give the little guy his due and quit misunderstanding him? Here's his M.O. --

  • Use a comma to separate the clauses of a compound sentence connected by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so and yet). The comma is placed before the coordinating conjunction, not after. Examples:
The students ate spaghetti for dinner, but no one cleaned his plate.
I gave three books to John, and John gave them to Nancy.
However, do not use a comma before and, but, or and nor when they link pairs of words, phrases or elements other than main clauses. Examples:
The students ate spaghetti for dinner and cake for dessert.
I gave three books to John and four to Nancy.
The trick here is to recognize if the conjunction separates a main clause (or major thought), or if it simply links pairs of words or phrases.
Also, the comma may be omitted in short compound sentences when the connection between the clauses is close, such as:
Justin stood in the corner and he watched.
If the sentence is clearly understandable without the comma, it is probably okay to omit it.
  • The comma separates two or more adjectives modifying the same noun if and could be used between them without changing the meaning. Example:
Janine pushed her long, straight hair out of her eyes.
However, do not use a comma between unequal adjectives or when an adjective modifies another adjective (instead of the noun):
His coal black hair glistened in the brilliant midday sun.
The test is whether and can be substituted for the comma.
  • The comma also separates the items in a list or a series. Example:
Jasmine visited the park, the museum, the court house, and the historical hotel on the last day of her vacation.
Note that the comma before the last item in the series (the one directly before and) is optional. Also, note that no comma appears before the first element in the list (the park), nor after the last element in the list (the historical hotel).
  • The comma is used in setting off transitional expressions (however, regardless, of course and so on) from the rest of the sentence. Examples:
The weight of the ball, however, was greater than the strength of the boy.
Of course, we could have eaten after they arrived.
Did he, after all, sleep in the den?
  • The comma is used with introductory elements:
No, he didn't wear a hat.
Well, that was the just the beginning of my problems.
When the bell rings, the students race through the halls.
  • A comma sets off long phrases that precede a principal clause:
Before we could call Great Aunt Mary, we had to locate her phone number.
After listening to the forty-five minute sermon, the children were in no mood for lectures.


Confused yet? Great! There are even more rules to remember!

  • The comma sets off words or phrases that rename nouns. Examples:
John, my oldest cousin, loves to garden.
Parkersburg, the third largest city in West Virginia, has a population of 38,000.
The girl, who had cried the day before, played happily with the other toddlers.
However, do not use a comma if the added information is essential to the meaning of the sentence, such as:
The song "Unchained Melody" melts my heart.
People who dream in color are thought to be clairvoyant.
The girl who had cried the day before made friends; the girl who had been friendly sat quietly alone.
The test is whether the sentence makes since if the renamed noun is removed from the sentence.
  • A comma can indicate the omission of a word or words:
To err is human; to forgive, divine.
  • A comma is used to set off a word of direct address:
Aunt Mary, this is my friend, Nathan.
People, don't let this happen to you.
Thank you, Wilma, for teaching me about commas.
  • A comma is used set off a quotation from a dialogue tag. Examples:
He said, "I didn't do it."
"I don't believe it," Jason replied, "but maybe if you prove it, I will."
"I don't believe it, either," Anna said. "Prove it."
  • A comma sets off a tag question from the rest of the sentence:
I didn't see it there, did you?
That's the best movie of the year, isn't it?
  • A comma also can be used to set off any sentence element that might be misunderstood if the comma were not used, such as:
To me, Millie would always be my best friend.
Some time ago, Roxanne decided to become a dancer.
  • And finally, a comma is used to set off a city from a state, the year from a full date, a series of four or more numbers, and to set off titles and degress from surnames and from the rest of a sentence:
My children were born in Winneconne, Wisconsin.
My oldest daughter was born on November 21, 1986.
I wish my husband made $625,000 a year.
My husband's full name is Sherden C. Tritt, Jr., although he goes by "Butch."

As you can see, the innocuous little fellow known as the comma can be quite cantankerous. It's no wonder that comma usage is the number one mistake I see on manuscripts I edit. Study this little guy--once you've mastered him, you've accomplished a great feat. Good luck!

Want more great tips and techniques? Our Inspiration for Writers Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available. Expanded tips, more topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and much more--check it out! Free shipping anywhere in the United States.

(c) copyright 1999 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. November be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net

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 Chosen Instrument

By Kurt Schuller

 Another inspired work recreating

Bible times.





AuthorMe had 1,056 unique visitors on Friday, September 27. This is the first time our daily unique visitors count has gone over 1,000.


Y'all come visit, y'hear?
























Rena Williams - Fiction Editor


Please welcome Rena Williams, Fiction/Nonfiction editor of AuthorMe.com. Rena is a graduate of the American Christian Institute. After graduating, she enrolled in Long Ridge Writers School.


Rena has written articles and short stories, and is currently working on a  novel titled, "Cinderella, Not a Fairy Tale Anymore," which is soon to be published.


Rais Neza Boneza - Country Editor - Uganda


Praise that Rais has been lifted from her oppression as a refugee poet, and now has volunteered to serve as a Country Editor for AuthorMe.com. She will review all manuscripts received from Uganda.


AuthorMe's Newest e-book  ...    

           God Created You

Temperament is the God-given, inborn nature of each person determining how he or she interacts and reacts with people, circumstances, environments, situations, and the world.

Temperament is who we are on the inside, what the Bible calls ďthe inner manĒ (or woman, God is not talking gender here). The National Christian Counselors Association, in the early 1980s, conducted seven years of research involving 5,000 people in regards to temperament. The research is still continuing.

It is now possible, through the use of the Temperament Analysis Profile Report (renamed the Arno Profile System in honor of Drs. Arno who were intimately involved in this research), to determine a personís temperament and their temperament needs accurately and scientifically.

When a personís temperament needs are being met by healthy and godly means, stress, anxiety and the problems related to stress and anxiety are greatly reduced.

Some of the problems directly connected to stress and anxiety are: depression, dissatisfaction, loneliness, fear, frustration, anger, marriage and family problems, poor work performance, exhaustion and inter/intra personal conflicts.

Even the American Medical Association has stated that 80% of physical ailment is stress related. Dr. Rick is convinced Temperament Therapy is Godís gift to the church to help people in the area of counseling.

Temperament Therapy is Bible based and Christ-centered. He is also convinced that relationship problems are all temperament rooted and has yet to find a problem, great or small, that cannot be solved with Temperament Therapy.

Dr. Rick wrote God Created You: A Guide To Temperament Therapy to provide information in a fun, easy to understand, non-clinical format so people could understand who God created them to be, how God created others and how to have happy, healthy relationships with the rest of Godís creatures (people; yes, God created them the way they are also, just as He did you). He is convinced this book will help anyone who has any relationship (at work or home or play) to be the person God intended them to be and to enjoy happier, healthier relationships.

GOD CREATED YOU  by Dr. Rick Martin

A guide to Temperament Therapy.

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Lynette's creative Writing Website

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Read...   Move Over Maharishi

By Dee Landerman

An ordinary housewife is catapulted into the unknown. For over twenty-five years with one foot in the other dimension, experiences visions, apparitions, and visits from the divine. As a Christian Intuitive with the ability to see into a personís spirit, she experienced first hand where the departed go.

She shares her life openly with you, with the intent to give answers and direction for you to find power, peace and acceptance in your own life. Dee reveals the ĎHeart Of Godí about organized religion and todayís churches, sharing Godís concerns and desires for America and the world.

About the Author

Accepting Godís terms, Dee Landerman committed her life to Jesus Christ, in exchange for the abuse and misery she was enduring and found herself the recipient of divine visitations, messages and visions. Teaching Sunday school, teen classes and a womenís group., she was always guided by the Lord with lessons and illustrations.

Click here for more info...

Publishing New Writers,

November, 2002 (no.311)

Editor Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

Submissions and comments to cookcomm@gte.net. Links are welcome.

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You Can't Put a Good Novel Down

by Rena Williams

I would like to share a novel with you that has two viewpoints. One, itís a page a turner, and two, you can learn from this great author. The novel is ďAmethyst HeartĒ by Penelope Stokes.

The novelís plot is based on the history the of  Dr. Salas Nobel, and how the Nobelís estate was inherited.  Dr. Nobel resigns has a personal doctor of a plantation owner to practice medicine on those who were less fortunate. After resigning, the town turned against him, but the ones he treated showed appreciation by using their gifts of carpentry to build him a home.

The setting of the novel begins in the present and then employs the narratorís flashbacks to relate the Noble familyís history. The estate is passed down to Dr. Nobelís daughter Amethyst.

Because of his bad spending habits, Conrad, Amethystís son attempts cunningly to sell the Nobelís estate by claiming Amethyst is old and senile. Amethyst sees past his plan, and plots to fight against his effort. Of course, Amethyst defeats Conrad at the end of the novel, but not without obstacles.

After reading this novel, I realized the importance of knowing your familyís history, and valued the things that has been passed down from my ancestors.

I also learned different techniques while reading Stokeís book. Such has action, narration, scene and structure, character emotions and much more. After all, we do learn from other authors.

While reading this novel, Iím sure youíll enjoy it and learn while reading.

        Rena Williams

        Fiction/Nonfiction Editor


Writing Therapy

Cost: $25.00

Instructor Name: Lynette Rees [Dip. Couns]

Instructor Email: peaceful_writer@yahoo.com

Url: http://class.universalclass.com/writingtherapy

What is Writing Therapy?

Writing Therapy is a way of connecting with your emotions via pen and paper, or the keyboard. I devised this course after studying the research of James W Pennebaker, Head of Psychology, University of Texas. Pennebaker's research shows that writing helps to lift the mood of depressed people. He also found that students who wrote about how they were feeling coped better with their exams.

Class Format

I have devised 9 lessons in all - taking you from what writing therapy is to covering the basic emotions we feel such as anger, grief, love, fear etc. I've also added a lesson on dreams and how to interpret yours, and a bonus lesson on creative writing. Each lesson has an appropriate assignment to match the lesson's content.

Write your way to emotional health!


Writerly Websites...


This is Dianne Ochiltree's site for children, parents, teachers and writers for young readers. Dianne is an author of books for young readers (birth to teenage)

and she is also a children's book reviewer. She's been writing professionally for over 25 years---about 18 years in public relations/advertising/marketing and the last 7 years as a children's writer. Dianne has two books published to date, with Scholastic and with Simon & Schuster.

http://tritt.wirefire.com The Inspiration for Writers website offers help and encouragement to writers of all levels. Tips and Techniques give practical advice about frequent writing blunders. The Writer's Prayer, inspirational quotes, and essays about the writing life add insight and inspiration. The Fiction Showcase offers short stories for the reader's enjoyment. And, for those serious about improving their writing skills, manuscript critiques and coaching services are available. Visit http://tritt.wirefire.com today!

Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (November, 2002).

    Critiques by Sandy Tritt

  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.
  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.
  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.
  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
  • Answer any questions you  have via email.
  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net

(See Sandy's article above.)










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