Tag Archives: advice for writers

About Commas

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: Commas drive me crazy. I see them one way in one publication and another way in other publications. What are the rules? How am I to know where to put a comma?

A: You are not alone in your confusion. The problem is that the use of commas is a style issue, rather than a strict rule. Each publication has a specific style. Newspapers often use Associated Press style, for example, which does not use the Oxford, or serial, comma. AP style would handle commas this way, in a list: The American flag is red, white and blue. Chicago style, however, which most book publishers follow, does call for a comma before the conjunction in a series. Chicago would write the same sentence this way: the American flag is red, white, and blue. See the added comma? No wonder writers are confused. Chicago style, set forth in The Chicago Manual of Style, has a long list of when to use commas, and I won’t go into the list here. My best advice is to use an editor familiar with the style of the publication for which you write. If you are writing fiction or nonfiction books, be sure to hire an editor who follows Chicago style. Continue reading