One of the best ways I’ve found to figure out where commas belong, don’t belong, or are optional is to look at works of other writers who have had to figure that out for themselves when they wrote long sentences.
The sentence above, from an English translation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, is 123 words long. The version visible above has none of that version’s commas. Note that the translator of Tolstoy’s work in English did not use parentheses or dashes or semicolons to function as separators in place of commas. The only punctuation marks missing from the piece are commas.
Do not be distracted by larger gaps between words and conclude they are clues to where punctuation is missing. The text is justified so all the interword spacing varies, with occasional added spaces to make the lines in both justified versions, one with commas below and one without above, end in the same place.
Leave a Reply