Are Your Commas in the Wrong Place?

images-12One would think with years of education stored in my brain I would have conquered sentence structure and those damnable commas – I haven’t. If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember I wrote about this some time ago in Confessions of a Comma Whore.

Recently, I had the opportunity for an editor to review the first chapter of my novel. I was pleased with his comments and surprised to see only a few red marks on the pages.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

“You need to review participial phrases, which is quite a common mistake. Additionally, I recommend learning about restrictive VS nonrestrictive phrases, which will help you better place a few troublesome commas.”

Well, Hells Bells! It looks as if those damn commas will haunt me till I die. Thank God for editors. Forgive me if I’m insulting anyone’s intelligence but I thought I’d review these “quite common mistake’s.”

Participial Phrases

participle is a verb used as an adjective, and they end in – ing, d, t, or n.

An example: Barking dogs (Bark = verb)

A participial phrase is a group of words containing the participle and any complements or modifiers.

xbasic_diagram_participial_phrase.jpg.pagespeed.ic.QxRA8-JccHThanks to Grammar Revolution, here’s how a participle phrase looks diagrammed:

Restrictive versus Nonrestrictive Clauses

restrictive clause is part of a sentence that explicitly restricts the noun.

Dogs that jump on people annoy me.

The words “that jump on people” restrict the kind of dogs I find annoying. Restrictive clauses do not require commas.

A nonrestrictive clause provides additional information but when left out doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence.

My, fluffy white, Bichon Frisé is a lap dog.

Removing the words “fluffy white” doesn’t alter the meaning of the sentence. It just provides more information. Non-restrictive clauses require commas.

I did well in college. English was one of my favorite subjects. The fact that commas remain my nemesis can only be explained in one of two ways – This Southern gal likes to write the way she talks, or my brain cells just aren’t what they used to be.

Many thanks to James from Storymedic for his feedback and encouragement.

“… very minor corrections. I could immediately tell that you possess a more developed craft, well beyond average.”

Want to know more about those pesky participles and clauses? Check out these resources:

  1. Grammar Revolution (Diagram it)
  2. Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips
  3. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
  4. English Plus
  5. Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab
  6. The Grammarly Handbook

Do you still struggle with certain grammar issues? I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram.

25 thoughts on “Are Your Commas in the Wrong Place?

    • I feel your pain. They are my nemesis no matter how hard I study. Maybe it’s the brain cells – they just don’t remember some things like they used to. 🙂 Glad you stopped by and thanks for following. Welcome to the fence jumpers.


  1. I am convinced that no one who is not still actively in the education system knows exactly how to use commas. I can tell as a fiction writer, I have no idea. When my word program tells me I am doing it wrong, I try something else.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Commas are my bane. I always second guess myself and need someone who understands the rules and can apply them to writing go over my manuscripts. The thing is, when I read the rules, I can get how they work in the sentence shown as an examples, but when it comes to applying it to my writing, nope. I have gotten better though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I know somewhere in my educational journey I diagrammed sentences. I also know I was really glad when that part of my education ended. I’m sure I make all sorts of errors – I now call it “style”. You are very brave to send your first chapter to someone for a sample edit. If I can ever leave my first paragraph alone long enough, I’ll do just that! I keep rewriting the same 100 pages of my mystery novel over, and over, and over again. Any suggestions on that ailment? Have a good weekend. I enjoy reading your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you found your way to my Cow Pasture. I like that – style. I’m afraid I can’t offer any advice. I too, have rewritten my first chapter a zillion times. Right now my plan is to keep writing until I have a first final draft. I’m sure there will be plenty to edit after that. Best of luck with your work in progress. And so glad you stopped by.


  4. Commas are my nemesis as well. I was always taught in school to put in a comma any time you would pause in the sentence. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true, as you outlined above. One of these days we’ll get it, Sheila!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I did what was required to get by in English, and that was about all. I was not very good at dissecting layers in literature either. Poor grammar has never kept me from writing stories. I attend a critique group and one or two members serve as the Grammar Police and write me tickets for misplaced punctuation. Sometimes, if the story is good enough, I get by with just a warning.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I was an English teacher. Commas drove my students, crazy 🙂 I told them, more, than once, that I, thought they just took, handfuls of commas, and threw them at, the page, hoping some of, them, would fall in, the right places.

    I got a lot of papers that look just like the above. The kids figured if they used lots of commas, maybe some of them would be right 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. It is reassuring to hear that someone else has problems with commas. I thought I was the only one who puts commas all over the document. Sure I have improved somewhat but I still make mistakes over and over again. That is one of the reasons that I subscribed to Grammarly, use Strunk and White’s The Elements of Stye and Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab. Yet, even with those helpful aids, I make mistakes when it comes to commas and participial phrases.

    Thanks for outing yourself. It has encouraged me to keep learning how to master my master my writing weakness. Although, like you, I believe these two weaknesses will follow me to my grave.

    Have a nice weekend.
    Shalom aleichem,


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