Monday, August 25, 2014

Writing 101: Commas and Using Names

I tell you, readers, it's a problem. Commas aren't being used the right way...and as an author, you can't let it happen to you. Are you sure you know how to use commas and names -- the right way? 

Comma, Comma, Come On! 

Using commas gets confusing. Use too many and you've fouled up the sentence. Use too few and there's no natural pause to your narrative. Use them the wrong way, and I'm liable to come after you. 

No not really, because I haven't got the time, but you can bet that your readers will notice. Mastering the basic mechanics of writing is necessary, or else there will be a segment of the reading audience that you can never capture. You won't be taken as seriously, and even your good reviews could be spoiled when readers point to all your punctuation errors. People always notice the errors. So don't mess up on something small, like the comma. This punctuation mark is easy to master.

When it comes to using commas with names, there's really only one rule. Remember it, and you won't mess up when you use commas and names together. The rule? Put the comma before and after the name you're using. 

When you write, Mark, always write with the right punctuation.

I didn't see you there, Sally, so how could I have known I would run over your foot? 

Didn't I tell you, Andre, to let Desiree know about that? 

Before and after. But here's the trouble: not all names go in the middle of the sentence. What if you're starting with the name, or ending with it? Stick to the basic rule, but modify it a little bit. Always put the comma before and after -- unless there is no after or before. See what I mean: 

Mark, proper punctuation is everything!

Sally, now you're being unreasonable.

Will you tell her now, Andre?

When there is no before or after the name in the sentence, place the comma where it belongs and continue to observe all the regular rules of punctuation. Look for all the names in your sentences and make sure they're surrounded by commas. If they're not, find out why. Is it because of where the sentence begins or ends, or is it because you left one out? Double-check your commas, get them right, and give readers less to complain about! 

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