My arch-nemesis: the comma

First off, I’m offering a group critique as part of a charity auction over at Ciar Cullen’s blog. Check out the Rose Group: Romancing a Cause

The premise of the critique is that Amanda Brice, Cynthia Justlin and I all swapped critiques of our Golden Heart® entries. Due to some diva mojo and our collective feedback, all three of us are 2009 Golden Heart® finalists. (By the way, RWA told me to put that trademark sign whenever mentioning the GH.)

I’m not a bad critique partner. I can be cruel, yet kind. But the one thing I cannot do is critique grammar, as evidenced by the Marlene entry I just got back. Judge #16, I thank you wholeheartedly! This thing has been through so many readers, and no one pointed out the mechanical errors to the level that you did. Were they just thinking I must have left out all those commas because I was typing fast? Surely Jeannie will go through and fix all these elementary mistakes herself. She can’t be that bad at grammar.

Yes, she is that bad at grammar. (Head on desk) Reason #1 that I’m a contest slut — your known readers and cps love you too much to see your flaws.

The thing is, I have an ominous memory of where things took a turn for the worse. I realized once that I was overusing the nefarious comma. So I did a quick lookup online about comma overuse. I looked it up online. Did I go to my Strunk and White’s, which I had used faithfully to write my master’s thesis? No, my lazy butt read something really quickly on Google and screwed myself up for the next year. I’m a quick learner — I pick rules up and program them into my head immediately. (Head on desk)

Ominous memory number #2. Not even two weeks ago, little sis was telling me about how people in her MFA program were griping about the period in education when people tried to get kids to read more for the joy of it and didn’t stress mechanics. So now we have this cadre of Lit majors who suck at grammar. “That’s me!” Little sis lamented. Little sis is my primary critique partner.

Judge #16 set me straight. I’m sending along a thank you letter soon, and I wish I could tack on some flowers and candy to that. (See previous comma. Now imagine a whole manuscript where that sort of comma was left out. See light bulb going off in Jeannie’s head about why she continues to get rejections.)

Re-programming starting now…