I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God
so that you may know that you have eternal life. [1 John 5:13]

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Comma? Does This Sentence Need a Comma?


This is useful information and since I haven't posted a tip in a few days, I thought I would go ahead and use this highly informative, though long, post. (After you read it you can see if I have used commas correctly.)


The comma "rule" that many of us learned-to place a comma anywhere we think a reader should pause-often results in muddled, nearly incoherent sentences like the following:

When Susan was a child, she wanted to be an astronaut, or a doctor, or a banker, but when she graduated from high school, she decided, that she would like to become an artist, and live in a big, exciting, fun city.

This "rule" is, of course, not a rule at all, and following it made the sentence above very difficult to read. Are all nine commas really necessary? Let's check the seven fundamental comma rules.

Comma Rule 1: Use a comma before coordinating conjunctions that join independent clauses.

Coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet

Independent clause: a word group that contains at least one subject, at least one verb, and expresses a complete thought; also called a sentence.

Example: Tom enjoys writing poetry, and he has submitted several poems to regional literary magazines.

Comma Rule 2: Use commas to separate items in a series.

Example: She bought bread, milk, cookies, and juice.

Example: Of the three children, Becky is the oldest, James is the youngest, and Jack is the middle child.

Comma Rule 3: Use a comma after introductory words, phrases, and clauses.

Example: Quietly, she tiptoed past the sleeping child. (introductory word)

Example: Running quickly, Marjorie arrived at the bus stop before the bus pulled away. (introductory phrase)

Example: After he finished his homework, Brian read The Great Gatsby. (introductory clause)

Comma Rule 4: Use commas to set off nonrestrictive phrases or clauses from the rest of the sentence.

Nonrestrictive phrase or clause: a phrase or clause that adds nonessential information to the sentence. In other words, if the phrase or clause was removed from the sentence, the sentence would still retain its original meaning.

Example: Several politicians, lawyers, and business leaders attended the conference, which began at 2 p.m. (nonrestrictive clause)

Comma Rule 5: Use a comma between adjectives that modify the same noun.

Hint: If you can put and or but between the adjectives, a comma will probably belong there.

Example: Edgar is a tall, distinguished businessman. (Since we could write tall and distinguished, the comma is necessary.)

Example: When I was in college, I lived in a small brown house next to a filling station. (Since we are not likely to say that we lived in a small and brown house, no comma is necessary between these adjectives.)

Comma Rule 6: Use a comma to separate a direct address from the rest of the sentence.

Example: Becky, please go to the store and buy some milk.

Example: If we don't go soon, Barney, it will be too late.

Comma Rule 7: In direct quotes, use a comma (or commas) to separate the speaker from the quote.

Example: The teacher said, "Please pass your essays to the front of the room."

Example: "I want to go to grandma's house," the child said.

Example: "Drive to the mall," Mother said, "and buy a new sleeping bag for your camping trip."

Comma placement is not difficult if we follow these basic rules. So let's take another look at the first example: How many of the nine commas are necessary? If you said five, you're correct. Here's the sentence as it should be punctuated:

When Susan was a child, she wanted to be an astronaut or a doctor or a banker, but when she graduated from high school, she decided that she would like to become an artist and live in a big, exciting, fun city.

The first comma in the sentence follows rule 3: Use a comma after introductory words, phrases, and clauses.

The second comma follows rule 1: Use a comma before coordinating conjunctions that join independent clauses.

The third comma follows rule 3: Use a comma after introductory words, phrases, and clauses.

The fourth and fifth commas follow rule 5: Use a comma between adjectives that modify the same noun.

Comma placement can be tricky, but if we follow the fundamental rules, it can-and will-become second nature.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Plurals of Numbers and Numbers That Begin A Sentence

Plurals of numbers:

My style guide indicates that the plural of a number is expressed as a figure by adding a lowercase -s:

before the 1950s
temperatures will be well into the 90s
the 5s represent nickels

Numbers that begin a sentence should be written out:

Thirty-five appointments had to be rescheduled.
Nine years ago, we opened our doors for business.
One inch margins are desired for this publication.

(NOTE: Even though "one" is followed by a unit of measure in the last example, it is spelled out, because it begins a sentence.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm On a Roll

Yesterday I sent in a sample devotional, requesting an assignment to write 7 devotionals for Light From The Word and submitted an article for consideration to VISTA magazine.

Today I ended up working a few hours but had some time to continue reviewing the Christian Writer's Guide and appropriately "code" the various periodicals based upon my ideas and desires for submissions.

This evening I copied seven pages of "Calls for Submissions" publications listed on-line by Writer's Gazette.

I also received an email this morning from a former free-lance client who has some writing work for me to do (commercial stuff, not Christian). It was great to hear from him as he was very kind and patient with me a couple of years ago when I was still learning about SEO and other writing for the web.

God continues to answer my plea to be used by Him AND my plea to allow me to make enough money to keep us afloat financially this year. So far, so good! Of course, God is always good!

That Prayer of Jabez is miraculous! I have also been praying the Lord's Prayer each morning as my coffee brews. I say it in the style of Lectio Divina (meditative prayer). I believe that my intentionally centering my day on God has made a tremendous difference in both my temperament, but also in the "energy" that I am attracting to my life.

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring [it] to pass. (Psalms 37:5)

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

More Number Do's and Don'ts

Below 10 or Over 10 - What's the rule?

Number below 10 should be written out. If a number is 10 or above, use the figures, rather than write them out:

two tacos
15 job applicants
seven new menu items
55 ways to save money

What's the exception to this rule?

Always use the number, not the word when figures are followed by units of measure:

5 yards
3 pounds
2 tons

Check back daily for new tips to help with the technical aspects of your writing!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

First in the Series - "Common Writing Problems"

Writing numbers is an area of confusion for many writers. I often find myself needing to look up the rule.

I referred to my Style Guide for this first in the series:

Use numerical figures for any number expressing time, measurement or money:

9 a.m.
1 in.
5 cm
3 feet

Measurement includes volume, velocity, weight and length. Using numbers for these types of statements make them easier to remember and easier to read.

Tomorrow we'll discuss some exceptions to this rule. (Aren't there always exceptions to rules?)

Happy writing!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kinetic Energy

kinetic - adjective
1. relating to the motion of material bodies and the forces associated therewith; "kinetic energy"

So many of my writer friends are busy writing for pay or otherwise that I am getting caught up in the energy! I've been going through my version of Sally Stuart's Christian Writer's Guide 2009. I've been making notes and had a couple of ideas for new articles as I read through some of the publisher's needs and wants for submissions.

The kinetic energy is even stronger since our last Richmond Christian's Who Write meeting last Sunday (1/18/09).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. [Hebrews 12:1]

Throughout this week, several of my writer friends have shared stories of how former obstacles have been thrown off in order for them to achieve a goal. Their testimonies have uplifted and inspired me. Actually in one case, I was in such awe and wonder that I almost cried. It wasn't that the story was anything so dramatic. It was, in fact, about a 'small' thing. Because I experienced part of the struggle and the ultimate resolution, it really hit me personally.

God is so very good! He continues to work for our well-being; he desires only good for us. I was reminded this morning that I need to be sure I am not throwing up any obstacles to His desire for my life. Then I need to remind myself of the truth that He loves me so much He sent His Son to earth, to die on the Cross for me.

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, [Philippians 3:8 NASB]

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring [it] to pass. [Psalms 37:5 KJV]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Trying to Get A Good Routine

Every time I attend a Richmond Christians Who Write meeting, I come home all fired up! We had our first meeting of the year on Sunday afternoon and I could not sleep Sunday night!

There we quite a few first time visitors, which was great. My favorite thing, though was that one of the writers I had met several years ago, who was in a critique group with me and 3 other women, attended the meeting on Sunday after quite a bit of time off! Then, another member of the group, who has had to pull back in her participation because of some other directions she is heading in her life, showed up late! We had such a wonderful round of individual and group hugs:-)

One of my dear Christian sisters was the first speaker and her presentation was so memorable. She even gave us handouts to help us get/keep our writing organized. The second speaker was good as well, with some great tips to enhance our writing.

I have two articles in the works and the beginning of a poem knocking around in my head -- not sure what will come of that, but it's bouncing around, beginning to formulate in the back of my head.

Sally Stuart's Christian Writer's Market Guide 2009 has arrived and I am going to spend some serious time reviewing it. My goal is to use Mondays as my day to devote to all things writing. Wednesday will be more of a writing business day - either submit poems or articles, do some research, meet with other writers, to some marketing activities, make the blog rounds, etc.

Hopefully, some more freelance work will come my way soon. I wouldn't mind giving up Wednesdays off to do some writing for pay:-)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Marketing Strategy for My Book

I just finished brainstorming all the Richmond area shops, stores, etc., where I will ask about stocking my book for sale. Then I went on line and looked up "gift shops richmond virginia" and one of the directories that came up included 248 listings.

Now the real marketing work begins. I've read that the easy part is writing the book! I woudn't have believed that throughout the past five years, but now that I see what is ahead for me to market my book, I may agree:-)

The decision to self-publish was mainly a financial one. Their were other considerations, though. The primary one was that I had to just 'DO IT' so I could check that off my list of life goals. Another consideration is that I'm a control freak and I wanted to be the one who decided everything - what poems and devotions to include, how to lay out the book and the cover art.

While I'm convincing folks they absolutely need to Woman at the Well to their inventory, I'll bring some copies of the Inspiration, Imagination and Faith journal as well. You never know!

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Take heed to the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. [Proverbs 4:25-27 25]

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Speaking With My Spirit Voice

I posted at my Writing From Life blog that I found my voice as a writer last night. What really happened, I think is that I got out of God's way and allowed His message to flow through me.

I labored over every word of my post for CWTR. It was actually almost painful, because I wanted every word to be meaningful and to matter. But more than anything I hoped the words were what God knew someone would need to read when they are posted.

It was a little unnerving because I haven't really struggled with my writing that much before. I assume it's because I was writing what I thought I should write:-) I actually had about 4 pages of notes I had taken that I intended to incorporate into the column and ended up using very little.

The topic is the beatitudes and I know that can be a depressing topic viewed from a certain perspective. I wanted to be uplifting and encouraging while also telling women they have the power to be God's Wonder Woman. The power isn't theirs, but His and He wants them to access it, use it, rely upon it, develop and refine it.

I also feel pretty empowered myself today. I feel as if I have broken through a barrier in my writing. I am inspired beyond belief to write on this topic and already have 2 articles drafted. The more women I meet, the greater is my call to minister to women from all walks of life and in every situation.

I believe my words will minister more than I could have done even as a Stephen Minister. Although that training certainly helped me understand myself and others better.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;bind them around your neck,write them on the tablet of your heart. [Proverbs 3:3 NIV]

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Day After

It was heavenly to walk into my writing room today. Yes, I still have a lot of work to do, but my computer table is now a workable area and I even cleared off the love seat so "visitors" have a place to sit!

Visitors are not discouraged, but one must be intentional to journey here:-) When we thought about buying this house one of the first things my husband said was that I would have my own private space to write. He meant that I could claim the office in the back corner of the detached garage:-) Our friends, from whom we bought the house, had a 9x12 office constructed when the husband decided to go into business for himself.

I hadn't even suggested I wanted the room, but my husband knew I would benefit from the privacy - away from television and other distractions. What a gift it has been over the years. I have at times not cherished the space and used it for 'temporary' storage when I was just too lazy to really find a place for items that should have been either thrown out or properly stored.

I've allowed my 'distracted-ness' to let the room become cluttered and piled with books, magazines and craft supplies. I'm making progress though. I felt so good this morning that I'm going to try to do one thing each time I cross the threshold to make my space as it should be.

I have a fresh new notebook to keep notes on research I've done for submissions of poems and other writings, and I have a brand new spreadsheet to track my actual submissions, deadlines, compensation, notification dates, etc.

Hey, it's day 2 of the new year. I've already been productive in my writing for the ENTIRE Year!

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:14]