Common Comma Problems
We all have those things we hate doing: snaking the bath tub drain, adulting, dealing with commas.
I deal with them so much while freelance editing that I have a macro for a comment box with “Comma” all ready to go. True Story.
Here are the four most common places I’m marking “Comma” in Dev/Copy Edits:
(all examples below hail from my #WIP Rallied, lucky you!)
1. After an Introductory Clause
To start at the beginning, we need a comma after those first opening words:
However / First / Well / Basically / Yeah / Finally / Still / (Exclamatory Curse/NonCurse Word)
Once upon a time, he knew exactly how to handle a girl like that.
Basically, yeah, but you’re missing the point already, dude.
God, when did he become this guy again?
“He’s not a hipster. Well, he is, but to be precise, he’s a lumbersexual,” Richard said, steadily slicing onions.
However, Tommy hadn’t sworn anything.
She’d been totally and completely real. And still, Tommy didn’t trust her.
A good way to check for this is by reading your stories OUT LOUD. And act like you're Jeff Goldblum.
Listen to where you’re pausing at the beginning of your sentences – where those first clauses come to a stopping point. If you’re pausing, look and see whether you need a comma.
2. Before a name
This is a big one. Most commonly found in dialogue, but occasionally in direct internal address.
We need a comma before (and after) we say a person’s name. Like, to their face.
The lumberjack that’s been glued to your ass, Evan.
Jesus Christ, Evan. How many times do you need to be told it wasn’t your fault?
I loved him, more than anything, but he is gone, Evan, and he’s not coming back.
I’m telling you, Tommy, you need to talk to her. Something’s up.
We also need them in internal address:
You’re thirty, Tommy. Thirty years old and this is where you’ve ended up. Good job, dude.
The comma before a name applies not only to proper nouns, but nicknames that are acting as the person’s name:
“Come on, dude,” Evan said, inviting him with a curl of her finger that was as enticing as she could make it.
"Let it go, man. You’re in a place that has nothing but time, and ain’t nobody got time for that."
“Hey, man. You want a beer?”
Without that comma, we are using that person’s name in a manner that no longer makes logical sense.