Monthly Archives: December 2012

Commas, what is the point of them anyway?

Today I’ve been revising the various rules about correct comma usage. And I’m somewhat appalled at the absurdity of several of them. Who made up these rules anyway? What exactly is the purpose of a comma?

For example – this is apparently correct:

Jim carried the ladders, and his partner cleaned the windows.

It is apparently correct because there are two clauses in the sentence which can exist without being joined. SO WHAT? What is the point of the word ‘and’ then? Would anyone not understand this sentence if it excluded the comma? Really?

Another example this time of an introduction taking a comma.

‘In ancient Rome, it was considered good practice to eat while lying on your side.’

The purpose of this comma? Do we need to punctuate this sentence with a comma? Would it really be so bad if people decided where to take their own breath? Is ‘ancient Rome’ so important as context that we need to dwell on it longer than the rest of the sentence?

More supposedly correct comma madness:

“Yes, Mark, that is correct.”

But we already capitalise Mark to indicate he is a person! Why do we need to separate the word as well? Does ‘Mark’ have herpes or something? Try reading this out loud and take a pause at each comma – does it sound good? Not to my ears. It sounds like the speaker is being sarcastic or aggressive. What if they are agreeing with Mark or congratulating him? Surely the important part of the sentence is the ‘correct’ or the ‘yes’ part?

And the mess all this comma prescription gets us into:

‘I can not attend on Wednesday. However, I will attend next week.’

All to avoid the awful crime of this incorrectly punctuated variation:

“I can not attend on Wednesday, however I will attend next week.”

Apparently you must not place a comma before ‘however’ they say. Why not? The rules insist on ‘and’ being  desecrated with a preceding comma. Is this a case of separate clauses or just rules for the sake of rules? I would take a breath where the second example indicates unless I’m seeking to make a big point about attending next week.

So it appears that rules have reigned comma usage for eons. I wonder how many good sentences have been ruined in the process and how many debates and re-writes have resulted? Why not simply use them to avoid ambiguity or to denote breath taking in a longer sentence? I can hear the chorus of disapproval from purists even as I write the words (without commas).

And lastly consider the Oxford comma. Why? Does this extra mark add anything at all?

“I bought oranges, apples, and bananas.”

“I met Aunt Lucy, Jim, and Peter.”

If we needed to know in what combinations surely it would be better to break up the sentence and avoid the possible ambiguity? If Aunt Lucy is on her own or with someone then simply state that facts we need to read.

So I’m off to howl at the moon and immerse myself in more important things while contemplating the rule book. So much for easily read script and smoothness of language. Far better to pepper the page with commas. Yeah right! Rant over.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

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It’s not a matter of life or death, it’s more serious than that……… the riddle of unloved sci-fi

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief Cover, available now at Amazon, Kobo

Following a late night debate over a beer or two, I recently researched the best selling films of all time

I like all kinds of fiction and non-fiction in films, TV and books. I like comedy, horror, adventures dramas and such like. I only draw the line at ‘crud’ and the majority of chick flicks. So that also rules out anything Twilight related. (Yes I can’t stand them – for me the Underworld series is a far better story)

I began writing Sean Yeager Adventures because it felt right and because it arose from my interests as a youngster. We used to have no end of sci-fi on TV: UFO, Dr Who, Star Trek, Blake’s 7. And at the lighter end we had Danger Mouse, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and many more. I guess some of it rubbed off and then Star Wars happened…

So back to the film stats. It turns out that nearly 1/3 of the top selling films of all time are sci-fi and they account for just under 1/3 of the gross income for the top 50 (that’s about 28% or $13.2 Bn).

The big winners are of course well known:

  • Avatar
  • Star Wars
  • Transformers
  • Inception
  • ET
  • Jurassic Park
  • The Matrix

To which we can add other big films like the Terminator, Alien and Star Trek series who fall outside the top 50.

And my point is?

Simply this – how come there are so few top selling books that are sci-fi?

I don’t believe for a second that sci-fi lovers don’t buy or read books.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

To boldly go where no man has gone before……….. Sean Yeager in print now

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief Cover, available now at Amazon, Kobo

After months of crafting, designing, huffing and puffing… Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief is available in deluxe print!  Hurray!

Deluxe because it is a 6×9 inch book size which shows off the cover and makes it very easy to read.

For those who don’t already know – the book series is a mixture of adventure, comedy, action, science fiction and mystery. A bit like a cross between Young James Bond, Men in Black, Star Wars, Artemis Fowl and elements of Monty Python / Red Dwarf / Hitchhikers Guide. We’re not in Star Trek territory yet. Watch that space though, Star Trek is converging all the time…

The DNA Thief sets the scene at breathtaking speed and Hunters Hunted is set to build on the mysteries and action  in a big way.

It’s a big milestone for us and very soon we’ll be speaking to libraries and bookstores about stocking the physical books. It’s funny there is something about holding print in your hand that makes a real difference….

Meantime, on with the series. Hunters Hunted is nearing completion and will see the light of day first as an e-book initially with print to follow.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett