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Punctuation Series: 4 Ways to Edit Commas

punctuation series

Four Ways to Edit Commas

 1.  Commas used with adjectives.

If you can place the word “and” between two adjectives before a noun without changing the meaning, then you need a comma separating the adjectives.

Here is an example:

His narrow chiseled jaw showed off his handsome physique.

His narrow [and] chiseled jaw showed off his handsome physique.

His narrow, chiseled jaw showed off his handsome physique.

The two adjectives here act as separate modifiers for the noun “jaw,” and that’s why there is a comma between them.

However, if two adjectives before the noun are considered a unit, then do not use a comma.

Here is an example.

The author had written many famous award-winning articles.

Famous describes award-winning, and award-winning describes articles. Therefore, no comma is needed because the words work together and make sense.

2.  Commas with adverbs.

Generally, adverbs like howevertherefore, and indeed are set off by commas.


She wanted to join the group, however, she had to work instead.

He asked his boss if he could take the week off, therefore, he was able to finish writing.

But if the adverb is important to the meaning of the clause, or if no pause is needed in the reading, then no comma is needed.


The cattle indeed ran through the pasture as a group.

I’ll wait for you however long it takes for you to make a decision.

Even if you’ve written a letter, you are therefore a writer.

3.  Commas with cities and states.

This is an often-confusing issue. When do you use commas and when don’t you?

Always use a comma between the city and state, even if the state is spelled out or used as abbreviation.


Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of several Christian publishing hubs.

Will you visit any museums in New Orleans, L.A., this year?

If the state precedes a zip code, do not use a comma.


Send your book proposal to Your Agent, 123 Proposal Rd., Manuscript, TN 12345.

4.  Commas with compound predicates, dependent clauses, and independent clauses.

Compound Predicates. Do not use commas when you have two verbs that belong to the same subject.

For example,

The writers drove to the writer’s conference and attended every session.

Dependent Clauses. A dependent clause that is considered restrictive cannot be left out of the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence, therefore, use a comma when the dependent clause comes before the main clause.

For example,

When you send the manuscript to the publisher, tell them we can edit if necessary.

A dependent clause that is considered nonrestrictive, and which provides information that supplements the sentence not necessary to the entire sentence does need a comma.

For example,

I’d like to spend the afternoon in the bookstore, if you don’t mind.

Essentially, if you can leave out the dependent clause (“if you don’t mind”), and the rest of the sentence makes sense, then you need the comma.

Independent Clauses. An independent clause is part of a sentence that can stand on its own. If there are two of them together, joined by a conjunction (and, but, or), then a comma comes before the conjunction.

For example,

The instructors prepared for their sessions six months in advance, and they taught several classes at the annual writer’s conference.

The only exception: Short clauses don’t need a comma.

For example,

Sarah ran the signup table and Bill greeted the guests.

Using commas correctly is important because it makes a world of difference in the meaning of a sentence. One wrong comma could mean someone’s life! (Let’s eat Grandma… or Let’s eat, Grandma.)

Next month, we’ll look at some more ways to edit the punctuation in your manuscript, but for now. . .

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

What do you struggle with when using commas?  

Oh! And in case you’re interested, there’s an excellent online writer’s conference going on right now (February 12 — March 5, 2019)! It’s all online — so that means no travel, no hotel, no childcare, no dressing up, NO stress—and the best part is that it’s FREE! 

25 stellar speakers bring you up-to-date industry news, strategies, and encouragement right to the comfort of your living room. I’m presenting two sessions on self-editing, so be sure to click this link >> FlourishWriters Online Conference and register! It’s free!

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Three Ways to Beat the Winter Blues


Writing with the Winter Blues
Don’t know about you, but this winter’s dragged on forever with no end in sight. Here in the Midwest, we had our first snow over Christmas. Then negative below temps stretched three grueling weeks, as did the snow. And in February, it kept snowing, melting, snowing, melting, raining, snowing, melting, raining, snow—Ahhh!

The country girl in me couldn’t take it any longer. And the writer in me shriveled for a bit; I felt like a snowman stripped of his decorations by giggling children who wanted to build a bigger snowman. And the editor in me? . . . quickly sprang to life because I needed to get cracking on my manuscript edits and guest blog posts and author book giveaway interview blog posts and client meetings and editing for clients and conference preparation and book proposals.

Are you with me still? Yes? Great!

How do you write during those winter blues? (Instead of simply staring out the bay window waiting for Spring?) My writer friend Pearl Allard wrote a fabulous post about her shriveled season. You can read about it here. You’ll love her beautiful tantalizing descriptions, words of wisdom to power you through. Right Click the link and Open link in new tab, reader or save her article, and come back here. You won’t to miss what’s coming next. . .

I’d like to share three things I do to beat those winter writing blues:

  1. Beat on another door.
    If writing isn’t working for you, it’s okay. Don’t panic. It happens to every writer, from multi published to beginner, from confident to scared, from experienced to inexperienced. No one’s exempt. Consider working on your platform—remember, that means building relationships on whatever social media is most comfy for you—or jotting down new story ideas, or sending out emails to writer friends to plan attending the next conference together. Several great ones coming up are listed in The Christian Writers Market Guide. Several conferences to look into that are surprisingly affordable: Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, Blue Ridge Writers ConferenceKentucky Christian Writers Conference, SoCal Christian Writers Conference, St. Davids Christian Writers Conference, REALM Makers, Taylor University Professional Writers Conference, and Breathe Christian Writers Conference, to name only a few. How about offering to beta read for a friend? Get involved in a blog tour or three. Two great tours to sign up for are Singing Librarian Books and Just Read. I’m part of Singing Librarian’s blog tour coming up Friday, April 6, for an author’s book, and the story line’s beautiful. You should come back and see what it’s all about!
  2. Beat your brains out with manuscript edits. No, don’t actually do that. It hurts. I just couldn’t think of a better way to begin point two. Seriously, though. Sometimes when those words don’t flow like milk and honey, it’s best to stop frustrating yourself and look over what you’ve already written. Don’t focus on writing. Focus on editing. Does a sentence not make any sense to you as it did at 2 a.m.? Make a note in the margin and move on. The trick here is not to stop and dwell on the words. We’re not writing, we’re editing. Big difference. Do you need to do more research for a particular scene? Jot some thoughts down of what you need to google or find in your research book’s index. Do you need stronger verbs? Nouns? Words in general? Pull up the online Thesaurus and enjoy discovering new words that are spicier than those old ones.
  3. Beat your plans into submission. Again, I’m writing this at 4 a.m. so my word choice may not be the best. Sorry. I think I need to use the Thesaurus more often too. What do I mean by “beat your plans into submission”? Think ahead. If you haven’t written a book proposal, use this stunted writing season to research the best ways to organize your book proposal. Keep in mind each agent or publisher has different requirements, so you’ll want to pay careful and close attention to their submission guidelines. Important: a book proposal is like a job resume. You want it to best fit the agency’s or publisher’s (if you’re self-publishing) guidelines you’re submitting to. Guidelines can be found on the agent’s or publisher’s official website. Generally, a book proposal consists of: the cover letter, target audience, current and future marketing (for when your book baby is published), complete synopsis (NO secrets kept here), and the first three chapters or fifty pages of the manuscript. A few great resource articles are Keys to a Great Book ProposalJane Friedman’s How to Craft a Book ProposalCrafting an Academic Book Proposal, and a few excellent and affordable books to include to your wintertime reading: Michael Hyatt’s Fiction and Nonfiction Book Proposals and Writer’s Digest Selling Your Nonfiction Book (ebook). Check them out and let me know which you’ve decided to get!

I hope you find these three things for beating the winter writing blues helpful.

What about you? How do YOU beat those winter writing blues? Let me know in the comments! Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Speaking of winter blues—oh look!

There’s a bright orange chested robin careening over a pine tree; and there’s the sun—the sun!—peeking over the horizon. I feel better now. Spring’s on its way. Hot dog! I’m gonna fly now—see you at the next writers conference! First, please leave a comment; conference’s not for a few weeks yet. I want to engage in conversation with you about YOUR winter writing blues.