Long Sentences

Scroll down to see where the translator inserted 12 commas in this piece.

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.

Inserted commas are in red for easy locating.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: