Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Lowly Comma: A Little Respect, Please!

Greetings, class! I’m simply delighted Myra invited me to return to Seekerville for another grammar lesson. And I must say I’m quite impressed with your lovely city. The Seekerville Grand Hotel is positively 5-star, so I know we’ll enjoy the ambience of this exquisitely appointed conference room Myra has booked for today’s lecture.

So now, if you please, pick up your courtesy Grand Hotel pens and tablets, and let’s begin. (Ruthy, darling, stop fussing with the buffet table. There will be time for tea and scones later.)

The first order of business will be a pop quiz, because Grammar Queen really must assess your comma skills before the lecture begins. Please mark each of these sentences correct or incorrect, and be prepared to explain your reasons:

1. Audra visited the palace to see her cousins, the maid and the butler. [Hint: the maid and the butler are NOT Audra’s cousins.]

2. Myra fears London, England can be quite foggy this time of year.

3. Mary is the author of many, published books.

4. October, 2007, is when the Seekerville blog was established.

5. The novels, that Janet and Julie have written, involved much research.

6. “Hello Pam,” Tina said with a wave.

7. Cara will sign the book contract, if her agent approves of the terms.

8. Missy rocked on her front porch wearing a new dress.

9. Debby and Ruthy unfortunately were unavailable for the autograph party.

10. Sandra’s friend, Glynna, is going shopping this weekend.

Well, class, how well do you think you performed on this quiz? Before we check your answers, here is what Anne Stilman has to say about the comma in her outstanding reference Grammatically Correct:

“The comma is by far the most-used punctuation mark, typically outnumbering all the others put together. Its basic role is to function as an interrupter, separating a sentence into distinct units.”

The Chicago Manual of Style describes the role of the comma even more succinctly:

“Effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with ease of reading the end in view.”

And now, grammar students, it’s time to check your quiz answers. I would suggest you exchange papers with a classmate for grading, but that might prove difficult under these classroom conditions. So Grammar Queen is trusting you to be fair and honest in checking your own work.

To simplify grading, let me begin by informing you that ANY sentence you marked as CORRECT is an automatic 10-point deduction.

Yes, class, you heard me. Every single sentence on this quiz demonstrated incorrect usage of the comma.

We will now discuss the applicable rules in each instance.

1. Audra visited the palace to see her cousins, the maid, and the butler.
    For the purpose of clarity, the serial comma is necessary after “maid” to indicate Audra visited four or more individuals.

2. Myra fears London, England, can be quite foggy this time of year.
    Commas are required to set off the individual elements in addresses or place names. Therefore, a comma is required both before and after “England.”

3. Mary is the author of many published books.
    When two or more adjectives precede a noun, the comma is NOT used if you cannot insert the word “and” between the adjectives and have the sentence still make sense. In this sentence we have removed the comma after “many.”

4. October 2007 is when the Seekerville blog was established.
    When a month and year only are given, no commas should be used. The commas before and after “2007” have been deleted. If using the month, day, and year, use commas as in this example: “Sunday, December 25, 2011, is the date for Christmas this year.” Note that each element of the date is set off by commas.

5. The novels that Janet and Julie have written involved much research.
    “That Janet and Julie have written” is a restrictive phrase, necessary to identify whose books involved much research. Therefore, it should NOT be set off by commas.

6. “Hello, Pam,” Tina said with a wave.
    In any phrase containing a direct address, the person’s name should be set off by commas, wherever it appears in the phrase. Yes, Grammar Queen is sadly aware that in casual correspondence such as email, many of you simply type “Hi Pam” or Hello Tina” and completely ignore the need for a comma. Grammar Queen abides such flagrant rule bending in limited cases, but she is of the firm opinion that you should follow the rules in manuscripts and professional correspondence. (You do want to make a good impression on those editors and agents, do you not?)

7. Cara will sign the book contract if her agent approves of the terms.

    The comma following “contract” has been deleted because the phrase “if her agent approves of the terms” is essential to the meaning of the sentence. We certainly wouldn’t want Cara signing that contract under any other conditions!

8. Missy rocked on her front porch, wearing a new dress.
    We may correctly assume Missy, not her front porch, is wearing the new dress. True, this sentence is awkwardly worded and would more reasonably be cast as “Wearing a new dress, Missy rocked on her front porch.” Grammar Queen did have a point to make, however. In this case, the comma was necessary for clarity.

9. Debby and Ruthy, unfortunately, were unavailable for the autograph party.
    The word “unfortunately” is a parenthetical expression, which must, therefore, be set off by commas. Other parenthetical expressions include therefore, however, indeed, and to say the least.

10. Sandra’s friend Glynna is going shopping this weekend.
    Must I explain that Glynna is not Sandra’s ONLY friend? “Glynna” is used as an appositive in this sentence, and because it is restrictive (meaning the name identifies which of Sandra’s MANY friends is going shopping), we do NOT use commas here.
    On the other hand, since I assume Sandra is not a bigamist, in the following example the commas are necessary: “Sandra’s husband, Mr. Leesmith, was quite a catch!” The name in this instance is nonrestrictive, meaning it provides supplemental rather than essential information.

Though we have barely touched on the many aspects of correct comma usage, this concludes our lesson for today. However, should you have questions about anything comma related, Grammar Queen will do her best to provide answers.

If you are feeling brave, perhaps you would share your pop quiz scores in our comment section. If not, well, Grammar Queen can certainly understand your reluctance to expose your grammar skills to public scrutiny.

Do be aware, however, that as you busily type your comments willy-nilly across the Internet, Grammar Queen may be watching! And if not I, then perhaps the editor or agent for whom you have set your cap. Remember, dears, the Internet has a very long memory!


Myra here. Uh, thanks, Grammar Queen . . . I think. I hope you haven’t intimidated our Seekerville guests too badly! Just a reminder, Seekervillagers, I live with this snob--er, brilliant grammarian--24/7/365! I know she can be a royal pain in the you-know-what, but her sole motivation is preserving the quality of written communication. A worthy goal for anyone in the writing profession, wouldn’t you agree?

Oh, by the way, Grammar Queen insists on tagging along with me to my Tuesday-morning Bible study, so she won't be able to stop in to chat until after lunch. She suggests you compare notes among yourselves (BUT DON'T CHEAT ON THE QUIZ!) until she arrives.

In honor of Grammar Queen’s visit today, we will give away a copy of Anne Stilman’s Grammatically Correct to one lucky commenter--no matter how you scored on your pop quiz! Watch for the winner to be announced in the Weekend Edition.


  1. Can I plead that it's late and otherwise I would have done better on the quiz? Let's just say I failed and leave it at that.

    And I've probably screwed up comma usage in this comment, but ah, well. It's too late ;). I'm tired!

    1057 words today, for a total of 4143. Better but not great.

    Still no definitive answer to my fleece but when I prayed, I prayed 'by Tuesday night' so...

    Okay - bedtime for this mama. I'm a year older tomorrow and that's not easy.

    I'd love to be entered for the book!

    carolmoncado at gmail dot com

  2. Happy Burfday, Carol! :)

    HI HI Grammar Queen!!! You're baaa-aaacckkk!

    Thank you for helping me this year. Today, fail. Not epic fail, but enough. Sigh.

    Great lesson. Thanks for inviting her again, Myra!!

  3. Yes, I failed miserably on the quiz.

    I also have a piece of paper (somewhere in a box) which states that I have earned a Bachelor's Degree in English.

    Ah, yes, you're right. It was many years ago. I doubt if failing memory is the culprit. I blame changing grammar rules!

    Which, of course, is why we love the Grammar Queen so much, right? After all, who else would work so hard to keep us on our grammar toes?

    (Except the Grammar Divas!)

    (Did I use enough commas, in, my, comment?)

  4. AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!NO!!!!!!!!
    (primal scream of terror)

  5. I challenge ANYONE to say the words

    restrictive phrase

    three times fast

  6. Surprised at how many I questioned, but I learned a lot about the Seekers!

    Thanks for the fun lesson.

    Mary Kay

  7. I can sure see why they call you "Gramar Queen"!

    I need that book. Count me in!


  8. Ouch. I needed this lesson more than I care to admit. My comma usage is so bad, I'm almost scared to comment. Um... I think I failed. Miserably.

    On a lighter note... I once saw a sign that said:

    "I hate superfluous, commas." (Not a typo.)

    It made me laugh at least. lol

  9. Commas save lives!

    "Time to eat, Grandpa!"


    "Time to eat Grandpa!"

    See what I mean? Grammar Queen just wants to make sure there are no fatalities.

    Jan!!! An English degree! I have a linguistics degree and a friend of mine told me that's what you go get when you're not cool enough for an English degree. :D Hmmmm.

  10. Happy Birthday, Carol!!!

    And congrats on the word count! I was on fire last night and so am getting to bed early tonight. It's all about balance, right?

  11. Well, six out of ten, not good. I am very disappointed in myself. We do, after all, speak English in our home. Please put me in the drawing for the book!

  12. This is why we have copy editors and editors, honey.


    Commas. Grammar.

    Oy. Oy. Oy.

    And the minute I think I get it, they change it.

    But they don't change recipes, so I'm bringing a delicious fritatta to the table, Myra! Sausage...cheese...eggs...hash browns...minced onion...fried hash-style and lightly browned.

    What about ellipses? Because I'm lovin' on ellipses these days! ;)

  13. Mary. Do not torture yourself.

    They will come in the night to attack and destroy.

    Shield your eyes. Mask your pain. It will be okay, honey. Promise.

    At least she's not talking about exclamation points.


  14. I lost count but did get quite a few right.

    Ruthy I agree with the exclamation mark.

    I had to type up notes for a man in our Church at one stage and he liked commas. He put them in places they shouldn't be. He had so much punctuation that was unnecessary but would get annoyed if you left one out even if it shouldn't be there. He has now written a book of his life and the Lady who typed it and edited was tearing her hair out. He hand wrote it all and would write like he was talking so often didn't really finish a sentence.

  15. I need more caffeine before tackling the quiz. I wanted to share with you one of our best friends teaches college English, and he won't even let my husband text him without proper spelling of words. No shortcuts. I'm sure you all would be great friends.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Jackie Layton

  16. Thanks--I didn't do great on the quiz, but there were a couple I got right. :) I know I need the book, that's for sure.
    Saving this lesson forever! Thanks Myra and Grammar Queen.
    belindapeterson at tds (dot) net

  17. I loved this wonderfully, creative post! Commas elude me, often becoming my worst nightmare. It is always good to brush up on some skills.

    Why is Ruthy at the buffet table?

  18. Jackie - that's how I am [more or less] with texting. Hate shortcuts but DH uses them all the time.


    Yeah. Not so much.

    I have triple chocolate birthday cake for anyone who wants it ;).

  19. What a timely post! One of my goals for next year is to brush up on my grammar.

  20. I hesitate to comment for fear my commas will be incorrectly placed. I am a comma slut.

  21. Ruthy owns the buffet table, Elizabeth. (note the comma)

    She has the only good griddle and the only Keurig in Seekerville.

    haha, Virginia. Well said.

    Eats, shoots and leaves.

    Eats shoots and leaves.

  22. Oh Grammar Queen, how lovely to hear from you again!

    Commas are lovely, aren't they? My son (college sophomore) still emails files to me for his English classes. Among other proofreading criteria, he always includes, "and remember to sprinkle in some commas!"

    LOL. What is the school system teaching our children today?

    I cherish your words of wisdom, GQ. And I see you must read over Myra's shoulder while she's writing. Her books are grammatically flawless while captivating and heart-warming!

    Did Ruthy finish setting up the buffet? I'd love a scone and tea.
    And maybe a handful of M & Ms...

  23. By the way, I love how my cousins live in the palace. I so adore visiting them.

    The maid, Sally, is such a delight.

    The butler, Giles, is a hunk... and bears a remarkable resemblance to Orlando.

  24. Happy Birthday, Carol! Sweetheart, you are not another year older; you are another year better!!

    Enjoy your day!!

  25. Eats, shoots and leaves.

    I love that book.

  26. I think I got 8 or maybe 9 right. But since my dog ate my answers before I had time to check them, I'm not 100% sure! lol

    So, here's a question, Mrs. Queen. Help me out on identifiers like geographical location and time period at the beginning of a novel.

    Here's what I have at the beginning of my wip. And it's italicized:

    Wisdom, Wyoming Territory

    Late spring, 1882

    Are the commas in the right place in the above example? And, I know it's not part of the lesson, but is spring supposed to be capitalized? Seems like I looked that up (somewhere) and discovered it isn't supposed to be.

  27. Here's my opinion, about commas. Just stick them in, anywhere. Here, there, everywhere. That way, if, perchance, you have them, say, in the, WRONG PLACE, they can always, be,uh, taken out. I think, Mary, subscribes to this, practice, too. Right, Mary?

    If you leave them all out your meaning can be slightly misconstued by the reader and they might not know what you mean. Forcing the reader to pause OFTEN will at least give them a chance to decide which if any of your commas should be removed.

  28. I hope Ruthy is right...we can leave the commas up to the editors...because they get paid to hunt out unnecessary punctuation...right?

    What did I just say? I HOPE Ruthy is right? Of course Ruthy is right!

    And yes...I love ellipses too - and M-dashes!

  29. Grammar Queen, thank you for the class on comma usage. I have a good understanding of commas, but I didn't do as well as I'd have liked to on the quiz. :) Maybe I'll just write simple sentences. Then I won't need to use commas. :) Just kidding. Too many thoughts are best expressed with more complex sentences, which require commas. :) Thanks for the lesson. This post is a keeper!

    Happy Birthday, Carol! I hope your day is filled with joy. And definitive answers. :)

    Virginia, thanks for the clarification that saved Grandpa's life! :) That brought out a chuckle.

  30. Carol! Happy Birthday!

    And thanks for sharing your cake. Triple chocolate is the only thing to bring to a party.

  31. Yay, Grammar Queen! I hope to have time to return for this lesson. Worthy causes are pulling me away...

    PS - I'm a comma freak, so I really need this one!!!

    LR dot Mullin at live dot com

  32. Wow, I got them all right. I guess the English teacher in me is still hanging in there. I would agree that commas are the most misunderstood element in all of grammardom.

    Happy Birthday, Carol!

  33. I'm always delighted when Grammar Queen visits Seekerville! Commas and I don't always get along. I thought a couple of your examples were correct. My bad. Still I'm learning. And thankful that you pointed out the weird construction that implied Missy's porch wore a dress.

    I brought gooey pecan rolls, Grammar Queen. Try that wearing gloves. I hid the forks. :-)


  34. Janet! LOL, you hid her gloves. I am loving this. Now hide her semi colon.

  35. Commas make me cry. BUT I only missed two on the quiz. One I can never ever get right and the other one threw me.

    When you do or don't stick a comma at the end of dialog baffles me.

  36. I forgot to say that the Seekerville Grand Hotel looks GORGEOUS! What a wonderful venue for a wedding :)

    Is this where the celebrities stay when they come to do a guest blog?

  37. Thanks, Grammar Queen! How fun!! Except that I missed #1, 8 (my own!) and 10.

    But I think maybe I'm finally understanding. A little better, anyway. :)

    Sorry, Sandra, for thinking #10 was correct, thus saying Glynna is your only friend! LOL

  38. LOL, Virginia!! See Grammar Queen, you're saving humanity!

  39. Our own beloved Erica Vetsch gave me a brief comma lesson only a week or two ago.

    It was very useful.

    Right up until I forgot what she said.

    The comma and I are natural enemies.

    Like the cobra and the mongoose.
    The eagle and the baby lamb.
    The lion and the gazelle.

    I think I'm the gazelle. A fat gazelle. Bummer.

  40. Audra, the same with me! My son sends me all his papers to read. And he always needs comma help. Now I'm wondering if I've been telling him right!!

  41. MYRA!!! I think Grammar Queen has been haunting my dreams because I cannot type Hey, Pam or Hello, Pam in e-mails without the comma to save my soul!!!

    LOVE the comma, truly, and I love the title of a great book a friend gave me about punctuation called Eats, Shoots and Leaves ... SO fun!!

    Yes, I guess I'm just as sick as Grammar Queen because growing up, diagramming was more fun than Monopoly!!


  42. Maybe we should get rid of the comma just like those extra characters that aren't moving the story along. I know, I know then there would be total chaos. But still...

  43. Hi Grammar Queen. I love your visits.

    And you're correct. Hubby is quite a catch. smile

    As for commas, each publishing house uses their own manual. One publisher I've worked with takes all the commas out. (Told me it saves space)

    Another puts them all back in. sigh. I think that publisher would please Miss Grammar Queen.

    I'm not telling how well I did on the test. aaargh

  44. Commas. Sometimes I get so confused about commas. I used to think I knew everything there was to know about commas and that I was almost perfect in my comma usage, but I find myself looking back at comma placements when I'm editing and wondering what in the world I am doing.

    The diva in me says, Let the copy editor fix it.


  45. I was just about to out Carol and say that it's her birthday today but I see that KC already did that!!!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAROL!!!!!!!!!!!

  46. Thanks, Grammar Queen and Myra. Overall I did pretty well (except for missing 2) but now I'm realizing that I'm probably needing some commas in this post! ~ When I was in school (you know---when we could look out the windows and see the dinosaurs roaming around,LOL) the teachers warned us about "comma splices"--are they still called that? ~ Thanks again for this informative post, GQ and Myra---and I've brought some Georgia Pecan Praline Pie to share today--enjoy! ~ Blessings, Patti Jo

  47. Oooh! Commas. Love 'em. They are one of this former editor's favorite punctuation marks. =)

    Happy birthday, Carol!

  48. p.s. Happy Birthday Carol!! ~ And I've just noticed Ruthy's wonderful buffet---YUM!! (I should've had more coffee before visiting today--then I'd notice things before I leave a comment*wink*). ~ PJ

  49. Thank you so much, everyone!

    I just hope the Grammar Queen doesn't hop over to my Facebook page, because I'm attempting to reply to EVERYONE who's left a comment on my page today. I've left out about a zillion commas, I'm sure.

    And how many ways can you say thank you to a birthday wish? I'm up to 3 unless it's something a bit more than thanks [like: Thanks, Mellie! Any chance I'll see a certain book I'm an influencer for in my mailbox today? [she said it's unlikely :(]]

    I've got:
    Thank you!
    Thanks, NAME!

    With various amounts of !!! at the end. And sometimes a nick instead of NAME. Like Cuz. For the dozen cousins who I've never met who have posted.

    I don't even want to know how many commas I've missed. It's quite pathetic, I'm sure. Even in this post.

    But now, alas, I must attempt some school work so I can have fun later ;).

  50. Hey, I didn't too bad. At least for me. I'm not very good with commas. They tend to show up when unwanted and disappear when I need them the most.

    Thanks for the comma lesson.


  51. :(

    My high-school comma expertise has gathered dust, apparently.

    (I think I punctuated that one correctly.)

    I'll not share my score on the quiz. Suffice it to say, I need to win the grammar book.

    Happy Birthday, Carol!!!

    What does Grammar Queen think of excessive use of the exclamation point?

  52. Loved this post. You can never have too many lessons on commas.

  53. Oh, oh, oh, busy morning!!! Who knew, who knew that the lowly comma would be so compelling!

    Brownies... to go with Janet's gooey buns...

    Oh, that just sounds wrong, wrong, wrong.

    And yet, I will post it still. Mary is rubbing off on us.

  54. Proper comma use... I'm so intimidated.

    Honestly, I think I'm going to have nightmares tonight. Maybe even daymares if I take a nap.

    Thanks, Grammar Queen.

  55. Happy Birthday, Carol!!

    Missed one out of ten.

    Went to bed early last night and didn't get the coffee pot set. Guess I'm in trouble.

    Anyhow, here's a fresh pot now.


  56. Helen, you should be taken out and whipped with a wet noodle posthaste. Forgetting the coffee. Honestly. Although, I was really wondering about some tea


  57. I failed the quiz too:( Thanks for your help Grammar Queen...needed that! I would love to be entered for a chance to win the book on grammar...I really need it:)

    lornafaith at gmail dot com

  58. Ooooh, not to digress, but ellipses are my downfall. In a cotnest entry this year a judge told me to watch out because the reader gets tired of pausing. I went through and checked, and I really did use them A LOT. Fixed that right up!

    Off to a field trip at the post office. I think I'm more excited than the kids. :) I've always wanted to be a postmaster.

  59. Excellent lesson! I need a refresher every so often. Thanks so much! :)

  60. Hurray! Only missed one, but that's probably because I proofread stuff on a daily basis here at work. And journalistic style is SLIGHTLY different from proper English grammar...

    I love Eats, Shoots and Leaves! We had to read that book in one of my college English classes.

    Happy birthday, Carol, and good job on the word count. I'm at a total of about 6,500, but I haven't uploaded anything yet. I'm ReinaJayne on NaNo, if you want to buddy up.

  61. Hey gang I just got word my ebook went live on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, like ten minutes ago.

    ebook only!

    But you can read it on your computer or smart phone.

    I found out about it because I got a tweet from Erica Vetsch. So she knew about it before me it seems. :)

    It costs 99 cents. I advise you to buy one for everybody you know and do NOT tell them what it cost.

    I'm trying to do the live link thing, let's see if I'm up to it.

    Buy it for Kindle
    Buy it for Nook

  62. Thanks, Grammar Queen! (Hugs to Myra for having to live with you.)

    I got 9 out 10 but I'm still not quite understanding 10 so I'm definitely in need of the book.

    Happy birthday to Carol and kudos Carol on getting some more writing in. I'm at 19,881 because I'm determined to finish all 50k before Thanksgiving. Would be impossible for m to enjoy roast turkey and sweet potato pie with NaNo hanging over my head.

  63. Yes, I definitely failed this test. Seeing as how I failed, I would love to win this book! LOL Joy jumpforjoy@gmail.com

  64. Good afternoon, grammar students! So sorry for my late arrival, but...well, Myra absolutely insisted I accompany her to the Bible study.

    Honestly, the poor dear would be utterly lost without me! One simply never knows when one will be confronted with a grammar dilemma and require my services.

    Hence, here I am at last to check your quiz answers and provide answers to your most trivial grammar questions.

    It would appear, however, that several of you were not paying close enough attention in your high school and college English classes.

    What am I to do with you???

  65. CAROL, darling, what exactly is it you are awaiting word on "by Tuesday night"? Perhaps for lightning to strike and GQ would grade this quiz on the curve?

    KC, may I assume you scored at least 50% on the quiz? If GQ provided any help at all to you this past year, she is ecstatic.

    JAN, JAN, JAN. My dear, the most fundamental grammar rules are changeless. GQ admits that not everyone has a head for the particulars of comma placement, diagramming, et cetera, et cetera. That is why there are so many useful reference books available on the subject.

  66. MARY, please do not run screaming from the lecture hall. You are unnecessarily frightening our guests.

    MARY KAY, do not assume everything you read on the test accurately reflects the facts about specific Seekers to whom GQ may have referred. However, if you are interested in spreading a few rumors, GQ will not object.

    JANET K, it takes a brave soul to admit she needs help. I doff my crown to you, darling!

    NATALIE, superfluous commas may be found in abundance if you know where to look. Do not be guilty of such malfeasance!

  67. VIRGINIA, thank you for not eating Grandpa. I would have to report you for cannibalism.

    MARY CLINE, 60% is not a horrendous score, but I do suggest you brush up on the rules. Perhaps as you are speaking English in your home, you should try verbalizing the punctuation. It might prove enlightening to converse as follows: "Hello COMMA dear PERIOD Would you prefer steak COMMA chicken COMMA or meatloaf for dinner QUESTION MARK"

  68. I've got a book on grammar rules that includes a chapter called 'optional commas'.
    I quietly weep every time I read it.

  69. RUTHY, darling, have you considered the possibility that if copy editors became irrelevant because authors had mastered grammar, your advance might increase exponentially?

    AUSJENNY, GQ can only imagine the hair pulling that would result from such comma abuse! There are those among us who despise being edited, unfortunately.

    JACKIE, yes, darling! GQ is not pleased when Twitter forces her to use substandard abbreviations or to forgo proper grammar.

  70. LINDI, thank you for admitting your neediness in the grammar department. Only when we recognize our limitations can we move beyond them. I commend you!

    ELIZABETH, in case you haven't noticed, Ruthy is obsessed with food. She spends half her time in Seekerville preparing elaborate menus for the buffet. We cannot fault her for this since, as we all know, cyberfood contains zero calories.

    ROSE, ROSE, ROSE! Why wait until next year? The time is ripe! Seize the day!

    TINA, we prefer to avoid such crass references as "slut." GQ believes "strumpet" is a much more colorful appellation.

  71. AUDRA, "sprinkle in some commas"? SPRINKLE IN SOME COMMAS??? GQ sincerely hopes you sprinkle in only necessary commas and leave out the rest!

    Yes, Myra does have me to thank for her (mostly) flawless grammar. I refuse to leave the poor girl to her own devices, no matter how loudly she complains.

    And do say hello to your cousins at the palace next time you drop in. (GQ is also very proud of you for using commas correctly when you mentioned them.)

  72. PAM, as far as GQ can tell, you have punctuated your dates and locations correctly. GQ would not capitalize "spring" either. Very good, darling! (And if you were being honest about your philosophy of commas, your copy editor must be eternally grateful that she will have employment for many years to come.)

    JAN, please see above comment. So glad you are doing your part to stave off unemployment.

    JEANNE, too many simple sentences can be boring. Strive for variety. Look up comma rules when you need to.

    LINNETTE, no cause is as worthy as clear communication!

  73. LORNA!!! For scoring 100%, you may borrow my crown for the next ten minutes! Oh, be still, my heart!!!

    JANET, I am not averse to removing my gloves to enjoy a tasty cinnamon roll. I do hope you brought fresh, creamy butter as well!

    TINA, you have just provided me with the inspiration for my next lecture--assuming, of course, that you allow Myra to invite me back.

    Where is Myra, by the way? She seems to have gone into hiding. I know she cannot be working on her novel since she won't touch it without me by her side. Tut, tut, and she has a deadline looming!

  74. JAMIE, I sense you are disturbed about how to correctly punctuate dialogue. Here are a few examples for you:

    "Happy birthday, Carol," Tina said.

    "Why, thank you!" Carol exclaimed.

    Janet said, "No one told me it was Carol's birthday."

    "Weren't you listening?" Carol snapped.

  75. MISSY, what a horrendous mistake! I know for a fact that Sandra has absolutely hundreds of friends! But next time your porch is wearing a dress, do snap a photo, darling.

    JULIE! GQ is a huge fan of diagramming! Oh, those little lines and angles, figuring out which word goes where--simply heavenly!

    JAMIE! For shame! Were you not paying attention when someone tried to eat Grandpa???

  76. SANDRA, it is true that in certain types of journalistic writing, the comma is omitted for space reasons. Generally speaking, GQ favors the serial comma preceding "and" or "or," whereas in newspaper articles, etc., the serial comma is omitted. One can hardly imagine such a tiny punctuation mark could take up so much room.

    MELANIE, yet another author who wants to ensure her copy editor's continued employment.

    PATTI JO, first of all, thank you for the delicious praline pie! Second, yes, there is such a thing as a comma splice. This occurs when you join two independent clauses with a comma when they should rightly be joined with a conjunction or a semicolon. Example:

    "The pie is delicious, I'll have another piece."

  77. Grammar Queen, I never doubted you'd take off your gloves, but wondered how you'd manage that gooey roll without a fork. Now you want butter. I do believe only commoners eat with their fingers. But I'll never tell.


  78. UPS just delivered my author copies of An Inconvenient Match! What a thrill to hold a new "baby" in my hands. :-)


  79. KELI, I am so glad to encounter another comma aficionado! We must meet for tea soon to chat more about punctuation.

    CHRISTINA, the comma is always available when you need it, and so easy to delete when you don't.

    ANDREA, we must all agree that the exclamation point can definitely be overused!!!! However, there are times when no other punctuation mark will suffice!!!!

  80. LOREE, how observant of you to realize the value of a comma review. An attitude like yours makes GQ very, very, VERY proud!

    TINA P, there are worse things to dream about than commas. Just ask Myra.

    HELEN, GQ is extremely proud of you! A score of 90% is most definitely worth celebrating!

    LORNA, some would say it is the attempt that counts. GQ is of the opinion, however, that perfection is everything.

  81. VIRGINIA, you are quite correct. Ellipses and dashes too often find their way into fiction when the comma would be so much more appropriate. Enjoy your trip to the post office. Heaven knows, in this age of electronic communications, the poor postal workers need all the support they can get.

    KAREN L, GQ is happy to provide these grammar refresher courses for the delight of Seekervillagers everywhere.

  82. STEPHANIE, you are quite correct in stating that certain usage styles vary depending upon the type of writing one is dealing with.

    MARY, congratulations upon the release of your e-book! I do hope you proofread it carefully prior to publication, because GQ most definitely will find you out!

    PATRICIA, my dear, how can GQ help you in your understanding of #10?

    JOY, you are so brave to admit your struggles. That is why GQ is here.

  83. JANET, darling, are you doubting my claim to royalty??? And I was just about to congratulate you upon the receipt of your author copies.

  84. Oh, great. I see Grammar Queen is being her usual uppity self. Sorry, gang, but as soon as we got home today, she tied me up and locked me in the closet, then took over my computer.

    I finally broke free and just wrestled the computer out of her dainty gloved fingers (which I noticed were a bit sticky and smelled slightly of cinnamon).

  85. What if country music followed rules?

    We'd all be chattin' with friends in low places, no doubt.

    Grammar Queen, where does poetic license enter the equation? Because I use sentence fragments often. Like now.


    Despite what the books tell us to do...

    How liberal are editors now? How fluid are they with conversational English?

    And great hair, by the way.

  86. You are too kind, Ruthy. I will pass your compliment along to my stylist.

    As for poetic license, GQ is quite aware of the fact that fiction writers require a certain leeway when it comes to grammar and sentence structure. GQ often turns a blind eye to Myra's sentence fragments, et cetera.

    For fear of mass reprisals, GQ hesitates to remark upon the current state of grammar skills among not only editors but the public in general. Let us simply say that...not everyone is as particular, or as well informed, as GQ.

  87. 1. Audra visited the palace to see her cousins, the maid, and the butler.
    For the purpose of clarity, the serial comma is necessary after “maid” to indicate Audra visited four or more individuals.

    This is the one that confuses me. When to use it and when to not.

    I think this will be a post for my writing tips file! Thanks so much Grammar Queen! :D

    Please include me in the drawing. :-) lr dot mullin at live dot com

  88. Incorrect (though I cheated on this one)
    1. Audra visited the palace to see her cousins, the maid and the butler. [Hint: the maid and the butler are NOT Audra’s cousins.]

    2. Myra fears London, England can be quite foggy this time of year.

    Incorrect - no comma.
    3. Mary is the author of many, published books.

    Incorrect - no comma after 2007.
    4. October, 2007, is when the Seekerville blog was established.

    Incorrect - don't need commas for this kind of clause
    5. The novels, that Janet and Julie have written, involved much research.

    6. “Hello Pam,” Tina said with a wave.

    Incorrect - no comma before a prepositional phrase.
    7. Cara will sign the book contract, if her agent approves of the terms.

    Hmm... Incorrect - need one before "wearing" because that clause is not necessary for the sentence to be understood.
    8. Missy rocked on her front porch wearing a new dress.

    Incorrect - Commas before and after "unfortunately" because its not necessary to the understanding of the sentence.
    9. Debby and Ruthy unfortunately were unavailable for the autograph party.

    Correct - "Glynna" is explanation of who Sandra's friend is but not necessary to the understanding of the sentence.
    10. Sandra’s friend, Glynna, is going shopping this weekend.

    How did I do? I can't remember all the official grammar jargon. Hope my explanations make sense.

  89. ah, well, ah, no, just wondering how you'd manage sans fork, Oh, Comma Highness.

    Your loyal subject

  90. LOL! I just read your comment. :D Actually, I've been spending my day in communication... NOT getting the other worthy causes taken care of. Now I have to jump into high gear. :D

  91. Alas, dear LINNETTE, GQ hopes you have now had a few minutes to read the rest of the lecture. If you still have any questions regarding the rules, GQ will be happy to assist.

    And GQ does understand that oftentimes the "urgent" takes precedence over the "important" in our daily tasks. Perchance tomorrow will be a more productive day.

  92. Dear NOUN,

    Grammar Queen wishes to extend her gratitude for your kind consideration of the condition of her gloves.

    She also wishes to know if you provide laundry service.


  93. Hi Grammar Queen,
    Thanks for the lesson. I am confused about comma use around the word 'then.'

    Example: He grabbed the rake, then spun back to the bear.

    I've punctuated the example the way I think it should be, but I've seen plenty of examples where the comma is missing in front of 'then.'

    I'd be grateful for your correction!


  94. LYNDEEH, your question, I must admit, causes GQ much consternation as well. She recalls vividly how one of Myra's editors would recast certain of her sentences as follows:

    Example of a sentence as Myra would have originally typed it:

    "She went to the store, then returned home."

    Example of the editor's change:

    "She went to the store and then returned home."

    GQ has yet to come across a definitive answer to your question. However, GQ tends toward inserting the comma before "then," as she believes it aids in clarity.

    Perhaps this is one instance in particular where we do best to follow the style choices of our copy editors.

  95. Thanks for this post! Print! Print! Print!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  96. Grammar Queen, I have a question concerning grammar splices (I'm raising my hand like any good student would).

    You said: ...there is such a thing as a comma splice. This occurs when you join two independent clauses with a comma when they should rightly be joined with a conjunction or a semicolon. Example:

    "The pie is delicious, I'll have another piece."

    I read somewhere that some editors feel new authors overuse semi-colons, but without one in the above example, the sentence looks awkward. My compromise was to use two sentences, but then the writing sounds choppy.

    Using a conjunction sounds better, but is that the right solution in this situation?

    What is your opinion on semi-colons? Are they overused?

  97. EVA MARIA, GQ is so glad you have found this lecture of value!

    JAN, GQ shares the opinion of many editors that the semicolon can seem stilted in popular fiction, particularly when used in dialogue. Therefore, whenever possible, use simpler sentences and/or conjunctions like "and" or "but."

    The example you gave would read much more naturally, then, as:

    "The pie is delicious. I'll have another piece."

    However, perhaps our speaker needs a lesson in politeness. It wouldn't hurt to say please and thank you.

  98. Mary, I bought your new book this morning.

    Up way to early have the plumber again coming today to fix taps but at least I have running water today I get hot but no cold, but still the shower isn't able to be used yet. By tonight I will have all the pipes fixed and either today or tomorrow have the pumped hooked up so the house will be on rain water. Just not use to having people come after 7am to work here.

  99. Bought Mary's book :D. There's a nice bday present!

    GQ - alas, I know there's no curve. And I wouldn't snap at Janet for not know it's my birthday. Ruthy maybe. But not Janet ;).

    Tuesday night = when I need to make a particular decision and asked God for guidance by then [or really, when I wake up Wednesday morning because I want to celebrate my birthday by going to bed early. Yes. I'm old.]

    I have hubcaps from Lambert's, Home of the Throwed Rolls for a midafternoon snack.

  100. Oh, come, now, Carol, you are NOT old!!! Half the Seekers are old enough to be your...um, slightly older but oh-so-young-looking aunts!

    Hoping you get the answer you're waiting for!

  101. Oh, Ausjenny! Plumbing problems are the pits! Hope you have yours under control ASAP!

    Must check out Mary's new book!

  102. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAROL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Hmmm ... good thing the GQ's not browbeating exclamation points today!!!

    AND TINA SAID: "I am a comma slut."

    LOL!!!!!!!! As GQ would say, "you little strumpet, you! ;)


  103. JAN maybe you could use the somewhat awkward sentence structure to add a tag in the middle.

    "The pie is delicious. I'll have another piece."

    "The pie is delicious," Mary said as she body blocked The Grammar Queen to snag the last slice. "I'll have another piece."

  104. I said hi to Carol on Facebook but I'll add it here, too.
    And I've met Carol.
    She is NOT old.
    Of course, these days, compared to me, no one is.


    (I wish now I hadn't wolfed down that last slice of pie. You could have it for a birthday treat)

  105. Grammar Queen didn't need that piece of pie anyway. I've been nagging her to pay closer attention to her diet, but I just can't keep her away from the scones and teacakes.

    And then Janet had to tempt her with cinnamon rolls this afternoon! I'm still cleaning the gooey mess off my keyboard!

  106. Janet!!!! How wonderful!!!! So excited for you and I will make sure it joins your other book on my shelf. :)

    We have a kids' guide to grammar called 'Woe is I, Jr.'. It's hilarious!

  107. Happy Birthday Carol I hope you are having a wonderful day.

  108. Okay - so maybe I just feel old. And Mary - you're welcome to the pie. I have triple chocolate cake :D.

  109. Dear Grammar Queen,

    Myra hinted that you'd lowered your standards. Now you've admitted you're in possession of sticky gloves. Hand them over so I can scrub them. We can't have you looking less than queenly.

    Noun with-work-to-do Verb

  110. What a sweet thing you are, Janet! I shall be happy to have you launder my gloves.

    But rest assured GQ never goes anywhere without a spare pair. As with commas, you never know when you will have need of them, and you must always be prepared.

  111. Grammar Queen and I are popping out for a bite of supper, but I'll make sure she checks in later.

    (If anyone has suggestions on how I can keep her from grammar-checking the restaurant menu, I'm all ears!)

  112. Happy birthday, Carol M! I loved the chocolate cake!!! Thank you for sharing.


  113. Tina, I admire Grammar Queen. She's smart, attractive, articulate, but a bit on the... How should I say this? A bit on the stuffy side. I'd hide her semi-colon, but she rarely uses it so wouldn't miss it for years.


  114. Laughing at "grammar checking the menu." I'm sure I've done that. I am equally sure my husband scolded me for it.

  115. Hilarious, Grammar Queen! I'm completely comma challenged, but you've helped me. Or maybe you've confused me. But thank you. Maybe someday I'll figure out grammar rules. I used to know them fairly well, but a lot of time has passed since I took up space in a classroom.

    I know who (or is it whom?) to call on when I have a question.

  116. Mary,

    Your ebook was just the encouragement I needed to get the nook app on my phone. I'm just a few pages in and laughing already.

  117. GQ:

    I got 6 1/2 correct - not counting #1 since I inadvertently looked at the answer (thinking I was looking at the problem). So 6 1/2 our of 9... not too bad. Right?

  118. We're baaaa-aaack!

    And GQ was very tolerant of any menu faux pas she encountered.

    After all, at a Southwestern-style burrito cafe, one hardly knows what to make of a "Homewrecker" or a "Joey Bag of Donuts."

    But it was quite delicious!

  119. CARA, dear, I'm so glad you asked. "Whom" would be correct, as it is the object of the phrase "to call on." You certainly know where to find me should you need further assistance.

  120. Virginia, love hearing you plan to have two Janet Dean books on your shelf. Thank you!!!


  121. I got a 70, but I wasn't always sure why. So, I'd love to learm more.


  122. Yikes! Blogger ate my comment.

    I can't count the first one, GQ, because I accidentally looked at the answer. So, out of 9 I got 6 1/2 correct. The month and year thing threw me off. I left one comma in and took another out.


  123. I think Missy sat on the porch and ROCKED THAT NEW DRESS! Sweet!
    Looking good!

  124. WALT, you are always such a gentleman! However...you want to "learm more"????

    Yes, LINNETTE, dear, the comma placement in dates causes problems for many, many people. Month and year? NO commas. Month, day, and year? Comma, comma, comma! Understood?

    DEBRA, I must agree. Missy always "rocks" in her new attire!

  125. Oh, my goodness, I think I need to go back to school. Actually, I didn't do to bad on the test. But I could definitely use some brush up on my punctuation. Thank you for a great learning experience.

    Would love to be entered to win a copy of Grammatically Correct. Thank you for the opportunity.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  126. Fantastic lesson, Grammar Queen! We love you! And we all got a 100% on the quiz. YAY, Seekervillagers!

  127. Oh my. I really bombed out on comma usage. Thanks, Grammer Queen, for this informative post. I'll try to do better. :)

    Happy Birthday, Carol!


  128. CINDY, no need to return to school when you have Grammar Queen. Just send out an SOS here in Seekerville anytime a question arises. Or invest in a reliable grammar reference.

    DEBBY, dearest, GQ assumes you are using the royal "we"? Clearly not EVERYONE in Seekerville aced the pop quiz!

    ANGI, you are to be commended for your honorable grammar intentions.

    And now, GQ is joining Myra in front of the telly to see which couple is leaving Dancing With the Stars. Ta ta for now, grammarians!

  129. A post after an English teacher's heart. Thanks for the reminders, Myra (and Grammar Queen).

  130. Thanks Grammar Queen. SO editors are the monitors to whom we must heed. Got it! ;)


  131. I'm still trying to figure out why Audra was visiting the maid and the butler.

  132. Thanks for this! I need more of these lessons. When I was in school, our government had decided learning grammar was irrelevant and took it out of the syllabus. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. Subsequently I have an appalling grasp on grammar concepts.

  133. This is helpful as I see the comma overused way too much. Thanks for the fun lesson.

  134. DIANNA, GQ has a special place in her heart for English teachers. Ah, yes, some of my sweetest memories are being called to the chalkboard to diagram a sentence!

    Yes, LYNDEEH, always heed your editor. She is the one who approves your advance check.

    TINA, dear, Audra was interviewing them for her next book, naturally!

    HELEN W, GQ is simply appalled! What idiocy! What lack of foresight! What flagrant disregard for the importance--no, let us say the necessity--of clear and precise communication!

    KAYLEEN, we are delighted you found this lecture to be of value. You are rather late to class, my dear, but when a student expresses such interest in the subject matter, GQ can be quite forgiving.

  135. I didn't do too bad (is that correct grammar?!) but I've certainly learnt a few things. Many thanks.

  136. I definitely needed this. Comma's are not my friends. :(

  137. I scored 7/10 ... thank you for posting explanations! I'll be filing away the answers for future reference. =)

  138. JO, TAMI, and LADY DRAGONKEEPER, many things for popping in!

  139. I got 9 out of 10 correct, as I flubbed on the last question. You said, "Must I explain that Glynna is not Sandra’s ONLY friend?" Yes, you must, at least for me. Thanks so much for the explanations; they helped tremendously.
    I have a typing business at home, and part of the reason I get lots of word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business is that I edit as I go. If there are typed or handwritten original notes, then I write down my explanations for making those changes; however, if the work has been dictated, I type those explanations on the printed copy in yellow highlights. I find that by doing this, it teaches the author, who hopefully will cease making these "errors" in the future (so that I don't have to make those changes repeatedly through the years).
    I would love to win this book.
    As others have noted, Lynne Truss's book called EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES is an excellent punctuation resource. I love the reasoning for the title (given on the back blurb): "A panda walked into a cafe. He ordered a sandwich, ate it, then pulled out a gun and shot the waiter. 'Why?' groaned the injured man. The panda shrugged, tossed him a badly punctuated wildlife manual and walked out. And sure enough, when the waiter consulted the book, he found an explanation. 'Panda,' ran the entry for his assailant. 'Large black and white mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'"

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