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January 15, 2013
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Replies: 8

Commas: Please Help

:iconbristow-sama:
Bristow-sama Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I'm working on a huge edit for a novel I'm working on (hope that doesn't sound pretentious), and I'm finding my biggest problem is commas and how they should be used. I do UNDERSTAND the rules for comma use, but sometimes I find that following them strictly doesn't work right. At the same time, I'm hesitant to break the rules and use "stylistic" commas. For instance:

“You're hardly worth talking about out of your own company,” he stated coolly, and backed away.

Technically, I know that last comma shouldn't be there because that second half isn't an independent clause, but I feel like without it the sentence moves too quickly.

Help me out guys? Are commas like this okay, okay in moderation, or just plain tacky?
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:iconjacob-nelson:
Jacob-Nelson Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013  Student General Artist
I guess it matters on what type of audience you're trying to attract (children,adults etc.), but i find using more descriptive words make it flow better.
For example: “You're hardly worth talking about out of your own company,” he stated with composure then (retreating slightly, retreating). [link] [link]
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Your comma is correct. It separates items in a series. That there happen to be only two items in the series doesn't change their serial nature.
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:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013   Writer
Huge edit? Pretentious? :p Far less pretentious than assuming your novel is perfect just the way it is.

In general--though I hate to suggest bending the rules as some sort of standard thing--I think commas can be used a little more loosely than most other punctuation. Rather than being something with a rigid use like an apostrophe or a huge effect like a full stop, they offer just a little pause. For character speech, that can be invaluable. For regular narration, it can sometimes put just a slightly different spin on things.

I don't like the look of that sentence without the comma either, but I'd also be inclined just to make the change =vglory suggested. "Stated coolly" doesn't really pull its weight, and the sentence is neater without it. No point fretting over small problems when you can just avoid having to deal with them! :dummy:
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:iconvglory:
vglory Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013
The comma doesn't need to be there, and does not good by being there. I would take it out.

That said. If backing away is an important action, you could write it as a beat.

e.g. “You're hardly worth talking about out of your own company.” He backed away.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Professional General Artist
Gah, why didn't I think of that?
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:iconbristow-sama:
Bristow-sama Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I like that. Thank you.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Professional General Artist
I dealt with similar issues many years ago.  Part of it was being a little rusty on formal usage, the other part was thinking that the commas served the function of adding pauses.  So I was often adding commas where it felt right, denoting a breath.  Thing is, while commas do sort of denote pauses, this isn't really the correct usage and often led to cluttered sentences.  The reader will, in many cases, read those breaths without your having to denote them.  In general, I would say it's best to stick with proper usage unless bending the rules actually benefits the expression.  In most cases I've found it doesn't.

In the case of your example, I don't think dropping the comma would hurt much.
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:iconipyromania:
iPyromania Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013
I think it'd look better with the comma inbetween about and out.
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