For anyone that follows this blog it is no surprise that grammar is not my strong suit. Hello! Read my posts and you should be able to tell which one was edited and which ones weren’t. That one should stand out to anyone with a clue because the tenses all agree and the comma fairy didn’t come by sprinkling a random sampling of unnecessary commas. Well, that’s a lie. The comma fairy came, but Marcia beat her into unconsciousness and tossed her out.
So, who is this comma fairy and where did she come from? The comma fairy is a woman named Lynne (me). I was raised in a military family and I moved a lot as a kid. Each year between the fourth and ninth grade, I attended a different school in a different state. Math and grammar were the real victims of the change in venue. Math proved to be less of an issue over the years. I went back to college, and starting with basic math – I simply took a class each semester until I made it through the higher functions. Easy-peasy.
Sadly, there wasn’t a basic grammar class. I’m a big reader, so when I took the placement tests for college, I was placed in higher level writing classes. I had terrific teachers who were interested enough in my stories and my thoughts that they could overlook the grammar. Looking back now, I realize that the comma fairy wasn’t doing a fly-by in those days. In fact, punctuation was optional. It became a problem when I started “thinking” about what I was doing. She moved in, and I’m still trying to get her to move the hell out.
The rotten little comma fairy usually drops them between the verb and subject or anyplace a verbal pause occurs. Take a breath and a comma comes out. Think about a pause in the rhythm of the sentence and a comma comes out. If I’m not sure how to punctuate the sentence just drop a comma in. Now I’m exercising a new policy that I refer to as “when in doubt – take it out.” I’m pretty sure that’s not really any better than the random comma dropping. However, it’s much easier for my editors to add a comma rather than try to figure out what the heck I meant when I put the comma in the wrong spot. That last sentence might be a prime example. Shouldn’t there be another comma in there somewhere?
I’ve bought the grade school workbooks for home study students and I’m working on the 6th grade book now. Honestly, I’m not sure how much good it’s doing. My punctuation seems to depart completely if I’m excited about what I’m writing. As my friend Arwen told me, “You lose your commas completely when you write sex.” That’s true. I have to add them when I rewrite and self-edit. The only way I see most of them (or the lack of them) is to read the scene backwards sentence by sentence. Otherwise, I sort of get distracted. Sadly, the same thing happens when I write something very violent.
I really am making an effort to improve. As I told my other editor, Marcia, “It’s only grammar, it can’t kill me.” Having said that, I’m not really sure I actually believe it. I think the stress of comma placement will someday cause me to collapse from a heart attack or stroke.
Of course, even if I figure out the damn comma rules, I’m still left with the nagging problem of just what the hell I’m supposed to do with those annoying semi-colons…