8.26.2012

Don't Put a Comma Where a Period Belongs


Don’t put a comma where a period belongs. End of story. End of discussion. End of dream. All of the three previous sentences are fragments, pieces of a full story, complete discussion, or an abandoned dream.

When I write I use sentence fragments without apology. For clarity. For definition. For emphasis. Sometimes I’ll say the same thing three times, three different ways to get my point across—bam, bam, bam.

Sometimes I say three different things, all beginning with the same word. I know this is repetitive. I know this catches the eye. I know this stalls the story. But sometimes the use of fragmented repetition slows the pace enough for the reader to perceive the full impact of what the writer is trying to convey.

Why three times you ask? Hum, twice isn’t enough and four is overkill.

In some ways life needs a little…emphasis, repetition, clarity. Sometimes the flow of circumstance needs to be fragmented to slow the progression of events so one can enjoy all of life’s little moments. What if I had rushed through my life this way—I grew up, I got a degree, I got married, I got a job, I had two children, I finally got published, I retired from my day job, and I died. Yeah, this flows, but it’s sort of…boring. Not that the stages of life are boring, just the rushed through summing up of them into one boringly long sentence.

Now… I grew up. My younger years had both moments of joy and moments of heartache. I got a degree. Sometimes I wish I’d majored in something else, but accounting is a skill that earns me a few dollars so I can enjoy what I really want to do. I got married. He’s a wonderful man and adds so much to my life. I got a job. Thank God, that job has come and gone, and I’ve moved on to other employment! I had two children. My babies are the joy of my life. What more can I say about that? I’m a proud mother. I finally got published. Oh, now we’re talking about my passion. I retired from my day job. Well, I haven’t gotten there yet. And I’m not even going to address the last one, because I’m obviously still typing this blog post.

Life doesn’t need to be like a run on sentence either. Run on sentences drive me up a wall and I get so frustrated I want to throw the book (or the Nook) across the room and hit the cat, except I don’t have a cat, all I have is one fat, lazy dog that my husband thinks is the most intelligent canine that ever lived but that barks incessantly in the middle of storms and dribbles dog food slobber all over the laundry room floor and then I have to get a mop and clean the mess up because my husband doesn’t “see” the slime until I point it out to him and my children don’t want me fussing about the dog because they love that mutt…

Sorry, I digress. The previous sentence reads a little like Jonathan Safron Foer in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. No, I didn’t finish that book. I would have thrown it at the wall, except it was on my Nook. I like my Nook.

Just like a good read, life needs proper pacing. I think at the ripe old age of…old enough to have lived a little I have finally found my perfect rhythm. Nothing too choppy. Nothing too smushed together. Just right. And I don’t put commas where periods belong. Or vice versa.

4 comments:

  1. I am glad I read this because I have so many times thought that I was writing my 3xs and it was driving me and everyone else crazy. I miss the commas, periods and run on sentences all the time. I love how you make this all POP with yep it makes sense and you are very helpful.

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  2. Thanks Denise for your informative, illustrative, and humorous take on this part of the writing process. You made my day. :-)

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  3. Thanks for taking a stand on the fragmented sentence debate. Sometimes it takes those short, two-the-point sentences to get the point across. Many writers are so afraid of breaking one of the ever-changing Language Arts rules, that their judgments become clouded by fear and a lesser story is often the result.

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  4. but what about the semi colon?

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