Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Comma Usage Part 3

Commas demand a lot of attention, don't they? I'm wrapping up this topic today with Comma Usage Part 3!

If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, be sure to check them out!

1) Use commas with "not" phrases.
She wanted brownies for her birthday, not chocolate cake.
Not to be outdone, the other peacock fanned its tail feathers.
I need an electrician, not a plumber, to install a new circuit breaker.

2) Commas are needed with "the more" and "the less" in longer sentences, but are unnecessary with shorter phrases.
The more they tried to repair the paint job, the worse the car looked.
The less time he spent at the arcade, the more time he had for studying.
The better her grades, the more likely she is to earn a scholarship.
The more the merrier.

3) Use commas to set off names of places.
She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but now she lives in northern Minnesota.
Have you ever been to the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas?
He accidentally bought a plane ticket to Springfield, Missouri, instead of Springfield, Illinois.

While the combination of all three parts of this series doesn't list all aspects of comma usage, I've covered those used most often in fiction writing. When in doubt, look up the rule. In case you missed the memo, get a copy of your style guide, like Chicago Manual of Style, as a reference. Keep it with your writing materials. Use it!

Next week, let's talk about that sometimes indefinable thing called Voice.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. I knew of number 3 but hadn't heard of using it for numbers 1 and 2 but then my schooling was pathetic! There's so many rules for commas it's hard to know when there's a rule and when there isn't. But thanks for all the tips.

    Looking forward to next week's tip.

    1. Commas are by far the most confusing punctuation, Jen. You think you know the rule, but then you find an exception!

      Glad you're enjoying the tips!