Today my son asked me how to use a comma. He is only six and I would be incredibly proud of how precocious he was if I wasn't sure it was a stalling tactic.
I don't know how to use a comma. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have some very faint ideas and have used self help books and usage, but I am not really sure. I wasn't taught about the comma at school (that's another story) and so far I have not been in a situation where life and death hung on the matter of a comma. I have got by, just like everyone else.
I am pretty sure I over use commas, and usually go back over everything I write and remove about half. I use them when I pause, when I take a breath, when I need to slow down the pace. And at least one comma in the preceding sentence could be replaced by 'and' - and perhaps should.
It is all a bit hypocritical of me. I do feel that if I write a story and expect people to read it I should write it using correct grammar and spelling and in a way that makes it easy to read. Knowing about commas and semi colons and when to use them are the sort of tools that should make a story teller's life easier. I am a firm believer of using the tools correctly, of putting in the foundations and laying out the stall. If you want to build a castle in the clouds, using hyphens and ellipses properly will make that foundation stronger and allow a more scintillating tower. It's the old story of getting the basics right so that you can get wilder and more creative with the fripperies.
Two things occur to me. The first thing is that I need to do some research on grammar and usage. The second thing is that I shouldn't have written this under the influence of Tia Maria.