The Noble Pen for Jan 19, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 19th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids


Various lists are out for the best books of 2016.  Here’s one.

Dylan reports that the Reddit Stabby awards are announced, and wishes he had been nominated so he could have won.

Cassie says The Emotional Thesaurus has been very helpful.


Dylan finished a commission and another story, and got another Patreon. He is working on his authoring program again.

Cassie went to the Writers House meeting at the CR library to rub elbows with other authors.

Riley reports the anthology that includes his story is available for pre-order.

Uriah edited his story using the group’s critiques.


Commas have many uses, and can make a big difference in readability and understanding.   There are grammatical rules to dictate some of their uses, but they may also be used for effect, such as pauses.  Fortunately, the rules are somewhat flexible and you have leeway.  Unfortunately, the rules are somewhat flexible and you never are sure what is right or wrong or will fit an editor’s styling preferences.

Wikipedia summarizes the uses of the comma.  They may be used for lists, separation of dependent clauses, setting off non-essential interrupting phrases, setting off initial adverbs (like therefore, however, and so), between multiple adjectives, and several other ways.

A frequent problem is running two sentences (independent clauses) together into one using a comma instead of a conjunction.   Wikipedia and Tina Blue explain comma splice problems, but she also has some partly contrary examples showing how comma splices can be used artistically.  Wikipedia also

An optional comma can be used to indicate where the writer wants the reader to pause in a sentence.  This changes the emphasis of the parts of the sentence, and can help in parsing a complicated sentence or suggest which of multiple interpretations is intended. The classic example is “Let’s eat Grandpa,” which was probably meant to read “Let’s eat, Grandpa.”   Ask yourself if the parts of the sentence between commas form some cohesive phrase.  It is not necessary to put a comma everywhere you pause, however.

The Most Comma Mistakes shows us what we probably most need to watch out for.

On the lighter side, a slightly risque cartoon, the Comma Sutra.

Some people do not favor commas because their ancestors learned to get along without them, after they found commas too difficult to transport over the mountains as they moved west.  They chose an extra barrel of flour over a supply of commas when they packed their wagons.   Even today, the cost of shipping a carton of commas restricts their use.

People may resort to modifying apostrophes, which seem to be in excess supply these days.  However when lowering the apostrophes it is easy to drop and bend them so that the best you can do is cut them down to salvage periods, which are only worth pennies on the dollar.  Few people use semicolons, so if you have an unneeded one you can cut it in two and have both a period and a comma for little effort.

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