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I've noticed I have a thing for commas, but I don't know if it's a big enough deal. I do try to sparse my longer sentences, but it leaves these lingering ones with probably an overuse of commas? I noticed that the prepositions in the following examples were sandwiched between commas. I felt that I wanted to keep that pause between, but then it leaves a sentence that's scattered with commas.

There is this one, which I can just split in half:

The cottage had a weary, tired look, but, little in size, it looked almost childish, with overgrown weeds and wildflowers adorning the brick.

But then, I have many other sentences like this where I'm not quite sure how to fix:

All the drizzles of rain shedding across the window beautifully smudged at the glass, and distorted the outside, where, like rain, leaves also danced down when winds carried through.

Are these big enough problems? These are only two examples, but I'm seeing this throughout the story I'm writing... Should I fix an overuse of commas in general? How would I go about doing that?

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Disclaimer: I'm a reader and — even if flirting with creativity in other ways of life — not a(n aspiring) writer.


I can fall in love with and already trust your two sample sentences. I can imagine myself enjoying your style immensely.

Maybe you feel that your writing style is deviating from the "norm". (Ha! I hope that already sounds terrible.) I want you to see that it can also be an amazing thing. A forte. A distinctive trait, that readers can learn to love and then crave more of.

You are allowed to write in the way it comes to you naturally. You can study, recognize, and embrace your own style. From then on, you could cultivate, refine, and train it, in directions, with aspects, that seem to fit it at ease. Perhaps even developing a style by which you will get recognized.

Regarding the specifics with these commas, what you could do, is reading larger chunks of your text, like paragraph by paragraph, or maybe even by a few paragraphs at a time, and keep an eye on the rhythm; manage your punctuation not to target a low number of commas (or whatever else), but to create, and to manage the ebb and flow of a rhythm — let it be playful, curious, or impactful in its ways. If that involves more commas than that in other people's writing, it is not merely okay, but it could even become a prominent vehicle in delivering your... art. This is your style. That's (among other things) what people love about your work. Another thing that can bring them back.

You may want to see an illustration of this; perhaps, proof:

I can offer you Jon McGregor. I have read two novels of his, the first being Reservoir 13.

In the first pages — perhaps throughout the first chapter? — I somehow felt a growing sense of being uncomfortable; something was going on. Then I recognized that it's how the author managed the sentences. It was something I have never seen, and would have not expected before. As far as I can tell, it had something to do with... ha, I'm not revealing any spoilers!

Anyhow: I persevered. Later, gradually I eased up, and proceeded to immensely enjoy reading the book. (Perhaps the writing style also got adjusted, allowing the specific perplexing pattern to fade out, to give room to something else?) In the end I found the experience reading the book very pleasurably impactful: I fell in love not only with the characters and their environment, but also with the specific way the events of their lives were delivered. Of course I wished the story went on longer; or rather, if there was some way for me to stay in that somewhat strange, hazy, uplifting world.

And through this adventure I got introduced to Jon McGregor's style.

Reading a second novel from him has confirmed: it's a thing that he does. He likes to play with language; to — absolutely boldly — invent his own dimensions of it. This is his work, his personal medium.

And now I am glad beyond expression that I got introduced to his work, because the second book I read from him — Even the Dogs (a difficult thing, this one; not for starters) — had granted me an incredible headway in my life: it enabled me to beat an eight years long debilitating addiction, or, to be more precise, to swap it out with a different, more constructive one. And his unique way of playing with language and heaping dimensions upon dimensions had the key role in delivering this impact.

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  • 2
    Welcome to Writing.SE! It's good to see an answer from a reader's perspective - that's something we don't often get on this site.
    – F1Krazy
    Apr 27 at 9:27
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    But all writers are readers too, aren't they?
    – Levente
    Apr 27 at 13:41
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    True, but writers tend to answer from the perspective of a fellow writer, rather than a reader's perspective.
    – F1Krazy
    Apr 27 at 13:45
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I have exactly the same problem. The only way out of it is to police yourself rigorously and ensure that you break your sentences up as much possible when you can. That said, take a long, hard look at your sentences and you'll see that you’re adding commas unnecessarily a lot of the time.

The other thing to note is that switching a few words around can help to overcome this without sacrificing your writing style too much. For example:

The cottage had a tired and weary look, and little in size, seemed almost childish with its overgrown weeds and wildflowers adorning the brick.

Almost the same sentence, commas to help flow and make it less disjointed than breaking it up completely, but still recognisably “you” I think.

Hope that helps.

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Try the semicolon sometimes, also read aloud, some of the commas you have don't seem needed to me.

The cottage had a weary, tired look, but, little in size, it looked almost childish, with overgrown weeds and wildflowers adorning the brick.

goes to: The cottage had a weary tired look; little in size it looked almost childish with overgrown weeds and wildflowers adorning the bricks.

All the drizzles of rain shedding across the window beautifully smudged at the glass, and distorted the outside, where, like rain, leaves also danced down when winds carried through.

to: All the drizzles of rain shedding across the window beautifully smudged at the glass and distorted the outside; like rain, leaves also danced down when winds carried through.

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To fix this, use periods. Run-on sentences are proven to bore the readers and no rephrasing would cause confusion. Reduce words to make the sentence simple and short. A compound sentence can be made into two-sentence so there is no need to put them all in one. Or you can hire a private tutor or editor to fix your mistake.

Example 1:

The cottage had a weary, tired look, but, little in size, it looked almost childish, with overgrown weeds and wildflowers adorning the brick.

Change:

Beyond the image of overgrown weeds and wildflowers that were adorned in the fading colors of the bricks, a tired-looking cottage sagged with stress from periods of destructions.

Example 2:

All the drizzles of rain shedding across the window beautifully smudged at the glass, and distorted the outside, where, like rain, leaves also danced down when winds carried through.

Change:

The gentle drizzle of the rain landed on the glass window, making distorted colorful lights on the ballet of wind and leaves.

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    Your changes seem very different from the originals. If you're suggesting breaking one sentence into two, why not just do that? So, "The cottage had a weary, tired look. Little in size,..." Apr 23 at 6:52
  • Not all sentences should be break into parts. Chunky sentences should be avoided as well as short sentences and besides, rephrasing can take out more comas than you can with periods. Apr 23 at 13:51
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    @ArtemisSilver You would get my upvote, but only if your changes actually said what you were going to do, break up sentences with periods. You changed the whole sentence dramatically, which is not related to your answer.
    – Nai45
    Apr 23 at 15:40
  • What I mean was that not every sentence should be changed by periods. Short sentences would still be a nuisance during writing. You need to create a variety of sentences length and reduce the numbers of commas at the same time, to create a paragraph without run-ons. Conjunctions should be also be noted to add if you wanted to replace the commas. Apr 23 at 15:53

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