Commas, Ellipses, Interstitials, and the Making of a Great Sentence

Writing styles are like ice cream, you either like them or you don't. But, there is an art and a craft to learning how to make ice cream, and the same goes for writing style.


This was posted in one of my writing groups a couple of months ago.

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Dennis
If one person says to another, “Do you have any idea, how beautiful you are?” then what does the comma signify?

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Now, Dennis doesn't give us the context, just a sentence and an odd question. By itself, I don't like this sentence. Maybe you do, that's okay, remember that ice cream flavor preference is personal and so is writing style. Taste in all of its forms is personal. Alas, I think that the comma breaks the sentence up in an odd way. You could, of course, read it that way. "Do you have any idea (short pause) how beautiful you are?" It makes sense, I just don't like the flow. I use commas a lot, and I use them in slightly unusual ways. That's because that's how I talk, I talk in little bursts, and I know this. I was quite active in a number of Toastmasters groups for several years and I've had this little speaking oddity of mine pointed out on more than a few occasions. Some people like it, some people don't. It's that taste thing again. Here are two solid replies to the initial post.

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Dan
Oscar Wilde: I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.

Nicole
A pause in the sentence. Although, using an ellipsis would make more sense.

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Oscar Wilde had a lot of wit about a lot of things, and I think a lot of writers understand the truth of that statement. Nicole's comment is pretty straightforward. Here's how I responded.

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Me
An ellipses might be alright, but it would be even better if it was turned into an interstitial.

Me
Let's take 2 minutes and add some juice to this sentence. I'm going to turn it into an interstitial.

"Do you have any idea," he said as he turned and looked at her with an intensity she hadn't felt in a long time, "how beautiful you are?"

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Now, that's a good sentence! There is a lot happening there, there is a whole scene in there, nay!, a whole story. I like how it flows as well. In context this could be completely different. You don't want to make every sentence an interstitial, but if we're just looking at the single sentence by itself then I think we've made great improvements here.


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I've written three fictional pieces that I like so far.


"The City of Peace" - A future history science fiction utopia/dystopia action adventure in a framed story of a father telling his son a story about the child's grandfather. That was a crazy sentence.

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/08/the-xprize-writing-contest-part-5-of-5.html

"The Birth of Hanniba'al" - A dark, somewhat alternative, historical origin story for the Carthage General Hannibal.

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/11/write-michigan-short-story-contest-part_30.html

"Matt's Eyes" - Don't read this if you don't like horror stories.

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2018/11/a-flash-of-horror-part-4-of-4.html


Here are three of my most popular posts.


"The Making of a Great First Line in Fiction"

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/12/the-making-of-great-first-line-in.html

"A Letter to My Niece in 2034"

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/12/a-letter-to-my-niece-in-2034.html

"The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 4 of 4"

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/11/the-most-important-question-in.html


You can find more of what I'm doing here: http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

You can support this page at https://www.patreon.com/JeffreyAlexanderMartin

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