I went to England on an overseas study program during my junior year in college.  One of my travelling companions, Dan, kept me laughing most of the trip with his very off-beat sense of humor.  He would tell people we met that he was a 'doctor of grammar, with an emphasis in punctuation'.  I thought it was funny until I began writing seriously a few years ago.  I could use a doctor of punctuation about now.  These commas are going to drive me crazy!

When I started my story in 2009, Stefanie (my smart and patient niece) gave me a refresher on grammar basics:  join two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction and a comma, avoid the passive voice, get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids (wait - that was one of my mom's rules).  I processed most everything she shared with me, but the commas still give me grief.  I'm finally getting a better handle on them.  During my last proofreading exercise, I probably added seven-hundred commas to my 130,000 word manuscript.  I stopped counting after a while, but I know that I was in high triple-digits.  I am now reviewing each chapter and checking to make sure that I've got my coordinate/non-coordinate adjectives punctuated correctly.  For example:

I was alarmed by the faint, fuzzy glow surrounding the alien until I realized I wasn't wearing my glasses.  Faint and Fuzzy are coordinate adjectives and should be separated by a comma.  As a general rule, if you can substitute the word 'and' for the comma (...the faint and fuzzy glow surrounding...),  then you are working with a coordinate adjective set.

The long flower beds filled with wilted violets made my heart ache for spring.  Long and Flower and non-coordinate adjectives.  Putting 'and' between them doesn't work (The long and flower beds filled...).

What is your 'Achilles heal' when it comes to grammar?  Punctuation problems, like me?  Overuse of adverbs?  Repeating words?  How do you go about cultivating better grammar habits?


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