M&M called us to avoid comma in the effective writing show. That confused me as the book I recently read, "Writing Tools" by Roy Peter Clark, who is no doubt a good writer, said "no fear of long sentence". Roy recommends making long sentences separated by comma to keep your thought flowing.

Needless to say M&M are excellent writer too.

I understand that business writing may be different from writing journal, newspaper column etc. But the key purpose - transfer message to reader should be the same. Any thought?

Sometimes, I think too many separated sentences make writing like a child's work. E.g. I am a boy. I live in Hong Kong. My family has 5 members.

Just lack of linkage in between.

Tks for your inputs in advanced.


jhack's picture

Tony, I'm a big fan of the comma (and the semicolon, etc...).

AND, short simple sentences are easier to understand.

Avoid commas where a period would work. Don't use commas to separate ideas.

You can use commas in a list ("Please bring coffee, donuts, cream and napkins").

The goal is clear easily understood writing.


TomW's picture
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I thought their point was more to avoid run on sentences where too many ideas are run together into one, making it hard to keep track of what the idea of the sentence or the antecedent of pronouns used actually are, especially if the same thing can be written more simply or if there is any possibility of confusion, keeping in mind that each sentence should only contain one idea, not expound on as many ideas as possible ;-)

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Okay, so here I have to admit my college, and post-graduate studies had a literary bent. So I can actually have letters after my name that authorize me to say something about writing.

Here it is.

Why are you writing? If the purpose of your writing is to communicate a thought, which business writing usually is, then you merely have to ask yourself if your thought has been communicated. If your long sentences get in the way of your thought, which they usually do, then don't use them. If your short sentences get in the way, then don't use them. Your own personal style is going to make a difference.

As for short sentences being child-like, crack open a book by Hemingway sometime. His prose is remarkable for elegance and simplicity. Oh if only we could all write like that.

I agree with M&M. Most people need to write shorter sentences. It will often help focus thinking.

(You all knew I was kidding around about authorization right?)

terrih's picture

Tom, LOL!!

ccleveland's picture

I think M&M's point about commas was that you can TRY eliminating them to shorten long sentences, not that you should avoid commas.

Subtle yet important difference.