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Suhaib Mohammed: This Tiny Punctuation Mark Makes All The Difference

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dreamstime_l_54307986In the complex tasks of our writing art, what does one little comma matter?

It’s everything.

We speed through the boring research process and the intricacies of writing and grammar, paying little attention to the punctuation marks, particularly the comma. But commas are the natural fittings; the celestial bodies that help make sense of our writing world. Remove a single comma from its rightful place and your whole writing dissolves.

Unfortunately, many writers abuse comma usage. In most cases, this happens because most of these writers don’t pay a lot of attention to these tiny marks. I’ve been guilty of this behaviour too, but I’ve recently improved.

I learned that once you make a comma its own universe, gives it its own specialness – like you give other punctuation marks and writing tasks – such as periods and research works. Every piece of your writing – whether it’s a blog post or essay – becomes extremely crystal clear and wonderful and ring powerfully to your readers.

Here are a few tips for making commas their special universe:

Pause and consider. Why do you need commas in your articles? Because they’re part of punctuation marks, because they’re like a piece of ornament in the room of your content? Or because they make a difference in your write-up, help clarify your core-message? Are they just tiny little marks we use sparingly in our writing or they’re indispensable characters that add clarity to our content?

What does a single comma communicate? Look at these two sentences:

  • The blogger who founded BellaNaija.com is very successful.
  • Uche Eze, the founder of BellaNaija.com, is very successful.

The first sentence is what grammarians called the ‘essential clause.’ As you can see, the clause (‘who founded BellaNaija.com …’) helps clarify the ambiguous subject/noun (‘The blogger’).

In this case, I’m telling you that of all the bloggers you know, it’s the smart founder of BellaNaija.com that I’m referring to.

The second sentence is the ‘non-essential clause.’ The clause (‘… the founder of BellaNaija.com, …’) hasn’t done much in clarifying the noun (‘Uche Eze’).

Why?

Because the name – Uche Eze – is unambiguous. It’s pretty specific. Clear. I’m telling you that I’m talking about Uche Eze – the one you know.

A comma communicates meaning. If you’re not sure where to place it, you’ll write a lot of ambiguous words that your readers will hate and ignore.

How good is your use of commas?

Admit it; sometimes, you just place the marks in sentences, not because you (confidently) know that they have to be there, but because you (out of self-doubt) just assume that they should be there. Learn how best to use commas; they add quality to your writing.

Spend time to edit and proof your content. Don’t rush to push send when you’re done writing your first draft. Instead, pause. Create a tiny bit of space before you show your article to the world. Relax. Take a walk. Eat some fruits or bite some pie – anything to get your mind off your writing session. Then sit down to edit and proof your work.

Edit brutally and read your content out loud to weed out all the unnecessary commas and clarify your message.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Suhaib Mohammed is a freelance writer and digital marketer. His website SuhaibMohammed teaches the art of writing compelling content that builds businesses. Wanna power your business with compelling content? Hire him now. You can also follow him on Twitter.

6 Comments

  1. Adio_Braimoh

    June 30, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    The tiny message that focused on comma, as carefully elaborate its use in sentence. Thank you!

    • Suhaib Mohammed

      June 30, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Glad that you like it. Let me know if you have any question.

  2. Ni Ne

    June 30, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Good article.

    I was expecting to see a bit more though such as how the comma breaks and/ or shortens sentences and some emphasis on the Oxford comma and its relevance (since many people do not use it, consciously or unconsciously)

    • Suhaib Mohammed

      June 30, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      Great pointer, Ni Ne. I think I’ll discuss them in details in my future posts. Stay tuned ….

  3. beht wait

    June 30, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Yes it does.

    My concern is why dont you people advocate for the hausa, igbo, yoruba…languages- how it is spoken, read written…..?

    You see, the issue i have with some BNers is that their “I too know” is too much. Many dont even read people’s comments, they go for their punctuation.

    Listen and listen carefully, you cannot be more oyinbo than the oyinbo themselves. Have you ever heard or seen the way Americans speak? You was, Me is…..very terrible use of tenses and punctuation but you will come here and be doing grammar police ontop one foreign language imposed on you

    kmt

    • Suhaib Mohammed

      June 30, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      We write about punctuation marks not because we undermine our native languages, but because English matters to our careers.

      Nonetheless, if you’re mad about the article, I’m sorry for the emotions it stirs in you. 🙂

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