What the hell is up with the commas?

Maybe I shouldn’t complain about fiction that has a lot of “technical” errors:  bad punctuation, bad grammar, bad spelling, bad science.  It’s none of my business, right?  If I get to read a novel for free, I should be grateful and not find fault, and besides, who gives a rat’s ass if the sentences don’t make sense a lot of the time because the punctuation is weird?  As long as the reader can get the gist of the story, it’s all good…


Some days, I really dislike humans.


I recently started reading a contemporary sci-fi thriller.  The basic premise of the story is interesting (and it looks as if the author is going to actually do something with that premise — huzzah!), and although there isn’t a lot of characterization so far, it isn’t the kind of story that requires it, so that’s no problem.  ‘Sides, I’m only four chapters into the novel.  I’d far rather wait for more detail than get hit with a truckload of info-dump in the opening paragraphs.  The one thing I can find fault with in this novel is that the author doesn’t like commas.  Doesn’t even use them to separate a direct address from the rest of dialogue!  (Makes me wonder if a character is going to die because someone forgot that punctuation saves lives…)  I do intend to keep reading this novel, though; as I said, it’s interesting.  Be sure, however, that I’ll mention the wonky punctuation when I review it.

And then… I also started reading another novel, this one straight-up futuristic science fiction.  And the author of this other novel likes commas too well.  Doesn’t know that you do not always need a comma to separate adjectives, because sometimes the first adjective modifies the second one instead of each independently modifying the noun.  Example:  the light, blue car versus the light blue car.  In the latter example, it’s clear that the car is a light shade of blue in color.  In the former example, we know… what?  That the car is some shade of blue, and it also doesn’t weigh much?  Except much of the time is this novel, what the author has written instead would be the light, blue, car.  *shakes head*  This is not the only thing I have a problem with in this novel, but I won’t go into the rest here.  Save it for the pseudo-review, right?


On a slightly related note:  One of the blogs I’ve started following recently is called Planetary Defense Command.  (Going by the traditional rules for italics, titles of blogs themselves should be italicized — they’re like print periodicals that way — and the individual blog post titles written inside quotation marks, but the Internet has also gotten a lot of people saying that italics should never, ever be used at all because they aren’t convenient, so who knows?  I’m going to be traditional today, like the grumpy, grouchy old man I am.  Italicize the names of periodicals!  Turn down that loud music, you kids!  And get off my lawn!)  Anyway.  Planetary Defense Command.  The blog’s tagline is “Defending the planet from bad science fiction.”  What a laudable purpose — and a daunting task.  The Commander doesn’t get outraged over bad punctuation as often as Mercenary Proofreader does — go figure — but neither does he let bad writing get away with being bad.  I like this guy.



About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What the hell is up with the commas?

  1. Thanks for the mention. I decided that I was being too repetitive in pointing out occasional grammar/editing errors, so now I only mention errors if they make it difficult to read a story. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by an error-free story.

    If I ever get any of my own writing to a nearly-finished stage, I’ll want to talk to you about your editing services.

    Liked by 1 person

Don't hold back -- tell me what you really think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.