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    #1

    Unhappy Commas

    I'm a college student who enjoys writing and am trying to improve my grammar and punctuation skills. I'll admit I've always been pretty bad when it comes to that stuff which is a shock to some because I like to read and write a lot. I think the reason why is because whenever I read I always focus on the images in my head I get when reading, instead of the grammar and punctuation and I'm trying to change that. Right now I'm reading up on commas and confused where to place them in this example:

    An old fisherman fishes a lone in a river under the morning sunshine.

    One thing about commas I always remember is you should separate the parts of sentences that could still be a sentence without them:

    An old fisherman fishes, a lone in a river, under the morning sun.

    But because alone is an important adjective, should I include that in the coma also?

    An old fisherman fishes a lone, in a river, under the morning sun.

    Or should I just use one comma: An old fisherman fishes alone in a river, under the morning sun.


    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I hope to get some help soon. I'm real happy that I found this forum.

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    #2

    Re: Commas

    I am not a teacher.

    Commas are dangerous. They can louse up otherwise good writing faster than anything. Use them sparingly, only when the mechanics of the writing calls for them. None of the commas you propose are good, right or needed.

    Beginners are tempted to use commas to create cadence. Use words for that, not punctuation, or else write speeches and give them rather than try to produce prose. Writing is not speaking, and you have to let go of the control you have when you are using your voice and try to create an artificial voice out of letters and spaces. It's like in chess, where you should always move a piece rather than a pawn---use words rather than punctuation.

    There are many good primers on punctuation. The Elements of Style will get you on the right track.

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    #3

    Re: Commas

    That was good advice from Coolfootluke.

    Here are my thoughts; in each case the commas represent a slight pause in speech:

    An old fisherman fishes alone on a river under the morning sunshine. Neutral

    An old fisherman fishes, alone on a river, under the morning sunshine. Here we are giving some emphasis to his being alone on a river.

    An old fisherman fishes, alone, on a river under the morning sunshine. Here, the emphasis is clearly on his being alone. One slight disadvantage of this punctuation is that it could suggest that it is the river rather than the fisherman that is under the morning sunshine. This could be cleared up by using a comma after 'river', but this makes the sentence rather jerky. We could partly solve this problem by changing the word order:

    An old fisherman fishes on a river, alone, under the morning sunshine.

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