Calling All Comma Masters

Nearly every day, I see comma errors in texts I read.

I don’t mean the texts clients send us for editing prior to publication. I expect to find comma errors in those documents. Clients send their documents to us at Precise Edit so we can make them right before they are submitted, delivered, or published. We edit the documents so they are well written, and we proofread them so they are correct. What I mean is I find comma errors in articles, signs, books, and other types of texts that have already been finalized and made public. 

Do you find comma errors, too? Do you find commas in incorrect places or sentences missing commas? Are you a Comma Master? Now is your chance to show off your comma mastery and have some fun. 

The Challenge 

Find a sentence in a public (i.e., published) document that contains a comma error. In the comments below, provide

  • the faulty sentence,
  • the source of the sentence,
  • an explanation of the error (a couple of sentences will be sufficient), and
  • the corrected sentence.

Any entry that provides this information will be considered a qualifying entry. I will accept only one qualifying entry per person. 

You have until 11:59 p.m. (EDT), May 29, 2011, to enter this contest with a qualifying entry. Any entries after that time will not be considered. (This gives you about a week.) 

The Reward 

The person who provides the selected entry can choose any one of our books in PDF form (except Your Writing Companion, which we give away free at http://hostileediting.com). These include

  • Zen Comma: 45-page PDF with examples, instructions, and anecdotes to teach you the 14 major uses for commas and the most common errors;
  • 300 Days of Better Writing: 191-page PDF with 300 strategies for improving your writing, organized for daily study, with a topic index for in-depth exploration of a writing topic;
  • Precise Edit Training Manual: 65-page PDF with comprehensive instruction on the 29 most common editing strategies we use and problems we fix; and
  • Which Word Do I Use?: 18-page PDF with definitions, explanations, guidance on using the words, and examples with discussion.

More information about these writing guides: http://hostileediting.com/.

Process for Selecting a Winning Entry 

On May 30, I will review the comments. Each qualifying entry will be labeled with a number. I will use the random number generator at http://www.random.org/ to select one qualifying entry. My selection of a winning entry, using the process described here, is final and is not subject to modification, discussion, or negotiation. 

I will notify the owner of the winning entry by e-mail and will also post the selection here. 

Unqualified Entries

If you sumbit an entry that I do not consider qualifying, I will respond with a comment that describes why the entry is not qualified and how it may be amended. (For example, if you do not provide a correction, I will let you know. You can then add a new comment that provides the correction.) This gives you a second chance, assuming you make your entry in time for my review.

Please note that I will not check entries after 8:00 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, May 28. If you submit an unqualified entry after that time, you may not receive notification of an unqualified entry. Submission of an unqualified entry, whether or not I respond to indicate the reason why it is unqualified, does not change the entry deadline. 

Not subject to entry: Any text from Precise Edit’s Blog, 300 Days of Better Writing blog, Zen Comma blog, or any writing guide mentioned above. 

Final Thought 

I think I’ve covered everything about this contest. If you have a question about this contest, please ask it in the comments below.

Overall, the point of this is to have fun and show off a little. I’m looking forward to seeing your entry!

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  1. #1 by preciseedit on May 23, 2011 - 11:05 am

    SAMPLE ENTRY

    Faulty Sentence: “Lujan also said the district is free to search students at such events, and said she would bring the issue up with Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez.”

    Source: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Local%20News/Students-sue-Santa-Fe-Public-Schools-over-searches-at-prom

    Explanation: This contains a comma between the two parts of the compound predicate. The first part of the predicate begins with “said the district…,” and the second part begins with “said she would….” The subject for both parts is “Lujan.” Unless needed for another reason, no comma should be there.

    Corrected sentence: “Lujan also said the district is free to search students at such events and said she would bring the issue up with Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez.”

    See? Entering is easy.

  2. #2 by Jared Livingston on May 24, 2011 - 2:38 pm

    Faulty sentence: “And in March Starbucks Corp., the world’s biggest coffee chain, raised the prices it charges retailers for packaged Starbucks and Seattle’s Best coffee by 12 percent, citing higher bean costs.”

    Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43150436/ns/business-consumer_news/

    Explanation: This sentence needs more help than a comma can provide, but I particularly noticed a missing comma after the word “March”. Is “March Starbucks Corp.” the name of a company?

    Corrected sentence: “And in March, Starbucks Corp., the world’s biggest coffee chain, raised the prices it charges retailers for packaged Starbucks and Seattle’s Best coffee by 12 percent, citing higher bean costs.”

    I’d probably rewrite the entire sentence this way: “The world’s biggest coffee chain, Starbucks Corp., raised wholesale prices for packaged Starbucks and Seattle’s Best coffee by 12 percent in March, citing higher bean costs.”

    • #3 by preciseedit on May 24, 2011 - 4:49 pm

      Great entry, Jared–Thanks! (Entry #1)

  3. #4 by Nancy on May 25, 2011 - 10:26 am

    Sentence: “We get it right, you get the credit.
    Source: Sign at Panera eatery
    Error: The sign contains a comma splice. “We get it right” and “you get the credit” are both complete sentences, so you cannot join them with only a comma.
    Correction: We get it right. You get the credit.

    • #5 by preciseedit on May 25, 2011 - 10:36 am

      Great entry, Nancy. I’ve seen the same sign at a local Panera. (Entry #2)

  4. #6 by Maria on May 25, 2011 - 11:13 am

    Faulty sentence: There are too many to name but they know who they are and we truly appreciate all their love and hard work.

    Source: http://www.australiantimes.co.uk/entertainment/Silverchair-break-up

    Explanation: I notice two commas missing here: one before “but” and one before “and”. They should be there because “but” and “and” are conjunctions linking coordinate clauses.

    Corrected sentence: There are too many to name, but they know who they are, and we truly appreciate all their love and hard work.

    • #7 by preciseedit on May 25, 2011 - 11:21 am

      Maria, Good catch on that one.! Great entry! (Entry #3)

  5. #8 by preciseedit on May 30, 2011 - 12:17 pm

    Congratulations, Maria!

    Maria’s qualifying entry in Calling All Comma Masters was randomly selected to win this fun little contest. She opted to receive a free copy of Zen Comma (PDF), and it’s been sent to her already.

    The point of this contest was mainly to have some fun with commas, to see what you all find in the way of comma errors and how you go about fixing them. To each of you who entered, thank you. I hope you enjoyed looking for, and explaining, comma errors.

    We’ll do this again,so stay tuned!

    • #9 by Maria on May 30, 2011 - 2:16 pm

      Zen Comma received here. Thank you, David!

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