Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Can I have a comma, please…

I don't have a current author pic,
so here's 
me as a cocky teen,
from Dan's collection c.1982
When I write, I’m being a writer, and when I’m editing, I’m being an editor.

When I write, I hand my work off to be edited by someone else. That’s how it works. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Writing and editing are two very different skills, and I take no issue with the wonderful editors that I work with. They make the changes they feel the work needs. They make changes relating to modern usage, house style, and, sometimes, just because of their own personal preferences.

When the relationship between a writer and an editor works, a better book is delivered to the reader.

Writing is about so much more than putting pen to paper, for me. It’s about cadence and rhythm, and, even about the way the page looks.

When I set out to write, I have only the page on-screen, fullscreen, so that there are no distractions on the desktop. I choose a font, depending on the tone or mood that I’m trying to create, and I begin to write.

I keep writing until whatever I’m doing is finished. A short story might be written in one or two sessions; a novel takes a matter of weeks.

Every editor I have ever worked with removes a big chunk of my commas.

Writing is a very different thing from editing.

I like a comma.

When I read, I like to take in every word. I never skim-read, and I ready slowly. Essentially, I read out loud to myself, in my head. My first degree was in English, and it involved a lot of reading. After my degree, I didn’t read for pleasure for several years. It was only when I reminded myself that I could read at whatever pace I liked, that reading became fun again.

Writing is a little like that. I write quickly, completing projects in short order, but I still want to read them slowly.

I write the stories I want to read; they are often linear and uncomplicated. I like my stories to be very accessible, so I use simple words, and straightforward sentence structures.

Here’s the thing, though: I do like a comma.

I was taught grammar in a very formal way, a very long time ago. It’s like maths, to me, or music. Everything a writer puts on the page makes a difference to the reader.

I do like a comma.

Suddenly, I realised I needed a comma.

You see, I used a modifier, so I used a comma.

I thought I needed a comma, and Dan agreed.

You see, the subject and verb changed in the second half of the sentence, so I used a comma.

The comma, semi-colon and period are all useful punctuation marks.

You see, I made a list, so I used a comma.

The comma, much over-used by me, is, nonetheless, a useful tool.

You see, I inserted a clause in there, so I used a comma, and, look, there’s another modifier, so, more commas.

I’ll show you that, again.

The comma is a useful tool.

Complete sentence, right?

The comma, much over-used by me, is a useful tool.

Look, I’ve added a clause, so there are the commas. 

Shall we put the modifier in, now? Okay, we don’t actually need to, because you can just read that sentence again, above.

And, there’s another thing: Conjunctions.

I need a comma, because ‘because’ is a conjunction, but some editors would delete it.

See how complicated it gets?

Sometimes, often, even, there is a change of noun or verb after the conjunction, which is just one more reason to use that comma, for me, at least.

You’ve started counting commas in the sentences that aren’t in italics, haven’t you?

I could do this all day, but, perhaps, my work here is done.

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