Self-publishing Advice: Ask the Book Doctor

Q: Can you tell me if reviewers ever judge based on editing/style? So many authors/editors do things differently that I guess they just look for consistency. What I was not sure about was use (or overuse) of commas. Can you tell me if commas should be in these sentences?

“That’s what I thought,” Mark said with a smile. (comma before “with”) and “Yeah, such a storm we had..” Mark said sarcastically.

Is it just preference? If so, would it look bad if the author put commas for some, and not for others?

A: Most reviewers consider everything about the book, including the cover, content, editing, writing style, plot, characterization, flow, resolution, and more.

The volume of commas is not important; what is important is that the commas must be used correctly. How can you know where the commas go, when we were taught one style in school, newspapers use another style, and book publishers use yet another style? Book authors (or their editors) should follow Chicago Style, which book publishers follow, because it dictates punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, when to spell out a number and when to use a numeral, etc. Once that style is followed, commas will be in the right places and the volume of them won’t matter.

As for your specific examples, the first example is fine, but the second one has two periods and no comma before the attribution. It should be written this way:
“Yeah, such a storm we had,” Mark said sarcastically.

If the attribution were a stand-alone sentence, the example would be punctuated this way:
“Yeah, such a storm we had.” Mark spoke sarcastically.



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Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at http://www.zebraeditor.com

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