I hate commas! I've decided that the comma is the worst of the punctuation marks - with hyphens running a close second! It's because when I'm writing my books I never actually know where to stick a comma...
...well, I could make a suggestion, but I'm too much of a lady! :)
Commas break up a long sentence, or are used for pause and effect, or are used in lists, e.g. Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally. I have adopted a few rules for my use of commas:
, before 'and' (in long sentences, and not in the Oxford comma sense http://grammar.about.com/od/grammarfaq/f/QAoxfordcomma.htm, but merely to break up a long sentence
, before 'but' (for the same reason as above)
, before 'or' (again to break up a long sentence)
, before 'who' (when 'who' is used to describe a person or their action)
, before 'because' (when 'because' is used to give a reason for something, and again only in a long sentence)
, before someone is about to speak. e.g. Ash shouted, 'What the f...!' and also before a quotation mark in speech when the sentence looks like this: 'You can't kill someone who's already dead, mate,' said Ash.
After words like 'well' and 'oh'.
and so on.
It would be easy to say, 'Don't use long sentences', and I try not to, but sadly this can't always be avoided! The rules above have helped me to maintain consistency in those instances, but as I plough through my proof of Big Brother I come across a sentence and I think, 'Would a comma look right there?' and this is what gives me headaches. If I come across a sentence with a similar length and tone I may not add the comma because it doesn't seem right!
Hyphens are a pest because a lot of words can be hyphenated or not! e.g. right-hand corner of the net or right hand corner of the net.
I may not succeed in 100% consistency as I plod through my Big Brother proof comma-fishing, all I can do is my best, so I'd better crack on with it if I want this book published by the end of July.