Breaking Comma Rules and an Open Call for Submissions


I saw this photo and felt it was solid advice for comma usage.

commasHowever, some of these can be broken.

Breaking Comma Rules

Rule 1: The Oxford comma is not always necessary. Some writers eschew it entirely. If ambiguity is avoided, maintain your preferred style. Just beware this classic example of needing a serial comma:

comma2Rule 2: I don’t feel this is always necessary and can slow down pace/context at times.

Example: I want to paint the entire house but Joseph hasn’t sanded the doors yet.

Rule 4: Em dashes and parentheses work too, depending on how you want to emphasize the nonessential bit.

Rule 5: This rule can give way to style preference if only two adjectives describe the same noun. Both of these examples are correct.

Example 1: Long brown hair cascaded down her back.                                                              Example 2: Long, brown hair cascaded down her back.

However, I would suggest using commas for a string of three or more adjectives.

Example 3:
Long, brown, shiny hair cascaded down her back.
(Try taking one or both commas out if you disagree.)

Rule 7:
The way this rule is written is misleading. The key emphasis should be on ‘sentence.’ Try this: Take everything before the comma and substitute a generic statement for the dialogue itself. If it still makes sense, the comma is correct.

Example 1: 
Mother asked, “Who wants ice cream?”


Mother asked a question.

Example 2:
Mother nodded at her friend, “Are you coming with us?”


Mother nodded at her friend
a question.

This second example doesn’t work with a comma because the direct quote is not part of the original sentence. A period or other such sentence-ending punctuation mark is necessary, as such:

Mother nodded at her friend. “Are you coming with us?”

Random Wrap-Up

It’s essential to know the rules so you can understand how and when to break them. Sometimes, that goddamn comma simply can’t be avoided whether we like it or not.

What do you think? Any others on the top list you think you can break? Let me know in the comments!

And if you’re feeling especially brave about breaking rules, check out this open call for Fuck the Rules, an upcoming anthology I’ll be coediting with the twisted David Owain Hughes. Only the brave few who are willing to throw up middle fingers, cross boundaries, and shake the status quo without tossing grammar, punctuation, and essential elements of storytelling aside will make the cut.

Fuck the Rules Anthology Open Call

Stay tuned. More randomosity coming soon.