Common writer mistakes #14

#14 — Misusing commas

I’ve done one of these on commas before. I had talked about using commas to continuously add information to a sentence. But I haven’t talked about when to use a comma and when not to.

Commas are complicated. What tends to get overlooked with them though is independent clauses and dependent clauses.

An independent clause can stand on its own. I walked into the house.

A dependent clause cannot stand on its own because some information is missing. After I came home from the store.

When joining an independent clause and dependent clause, no comma is needed. But when joining two independent clauses, a comma is needed to separate the two ideas.

Here are some examples:

  • I wanted to help him, but he wasn’t listening to me.
  • She moved closer but stopped short.
  • As they cast a spell toward me, I ducked behind a table and hoped that they couldn’t reach me.
  • I wanted a snack after my hour-long class.
  • Going from one side of the house to another sucked, so I moved my fridge into my bedroom.

A good trick is to see if the subject at the beginning of the sentence has changed or repeated by the end. If it has, it probably needs a comma.

I hope this helps!

Want more?

#1 — Using multiple adjectives
#2 — Vagueness for tension
#3 — Repeating words for emphasis
#4 — Common misused words
#5 — Misusing hyphens

#6 — Unnecessary details
#7 — Not developing characters
#8 — The words feel and felt
#9 — Overusing character names
#10 — Adding too many details with commas

#11 — Different types of dashes
#12 — Not using plain language
#13 — Dialogue tags vs action beats
This was originally posted on my writing blog.

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