Writing Without Commas

Today is my mother’s birthday. She’s 80 but doesn’t believe me when I tell her that’s how old she is. She also doesn’t believe it’s her birthday. If she was in Washington right now she’d be proclaiming this was fake news.

Mom and cake

This post isn’t all about Mom but I make no promises I won’t mention her again. This article is about writing and communicating. It’s also about a challenge.

What’s the challenge? To write a full article using no commas. This is from the mouth of the challenger. His name is Derek Halpern:


That’s the challenge. I decided to try to tackle it because I love writing. I’ve loved writing for many years. Something I’ve rarely done is tried to change my style of writing. Why not?

I’m comfortable with how I write. Once I found my blogging style I decided I was never giving it up. I tried doing it years ago when I was writing for companies like Demand Studios. I don’t think they’re around today.

There was a certain way you had to write for them that didn’t fit my style. I didn’t last long with them. In their minds that was a style that helped people understand the content better. Google decided they were an article farm of weak content. You know what happened after Panda came out. All of us took major hits and our rankings dropped dramatically.

As I said earlier I like my normal style of writing. Here and there I’ve heard from people who say they think my writing is complicated. Even with fewer lines in my paragraphs they think it’s hard to read. Sometimes it’s too long for them.

I decided it was time to try out a challenge because Derek wants to know what happens if we write shorter sentences. He says articles written like this will get more likes and shares. He says sales copy written like this will get more sales and attention. I could use more of each of these things.

I’m not expecting much to happen though. One of the problems with advice is that you still have to drive traffic to your site. You still have to get people to open your sales emails. This might work better if you have a list with 5000 people on it. Outside of the spam comments I get I don’t even end up with 5000 visitors a month.

I used to get more than 5000 visitors a month. I also used to make money from this blog and other blogs. My writing style didn’t change that. The amount of content didn’t change that. Google changed that.

I believe that has more to do with traffic than how I decide to write my articles. It could also be that I don’t comment on as many blogs as I used to. But I could be wrong. Maybe more people will visit if I write like this regularly. It’s an experiment recommended by Derek. When it comes to content marketing he knows more about this than I do. He knows more about sales copy than I do. So I’m trying it.

He’s not the only person to ever suggest writing tips though. I’ve done it often here. I gave tips on how to be a prolific writer. I wrote a six-part book writing series back in 2008. I’ve talked about writing concepts and have shared 20 tips on writing. I even asked people if they could change their writing style.

I’m not averse to challenges. I’m not even averse to change.

I am averse to boring writing. I am averse to very short sentences. I’m finding the comma challenge stifling. It’s taken me longer to write this article than normal.

This means I’m going to talk about Mom again. Mom has dementia. You saw the candle on the cupcake? Turns out it was one of those candles that doesn’t go out when you blow it out. It reignites and flames up time and time again. I couldn’t get Mom to smile in the picture. She laughed when we couldn’t put the candle out. That made me giggle.

Where was I? Commas! I’m probably doing it all wrong but this is the only way I can write something without commas. Commas help give me a flow. Commas help make me feel less boring. Even in the video Derek admitted that many of the sentences he uttered would have commas if written on paper. A world without commas means a world without storytelling. Does anyone want that?

That’s all I have. Is this a challenge you’d take on? Do you like this kind of writing better than my normal way? I’d like to know. Just know that I’m never doing this again intentionally.

Happy birthday Mom! πŸ˜€

26 thoughts on “Writing Without Commas”

  1. Am I the first to take on your challenge? I’ll see your no comma rule and raise you two more challenges – three, if you count figuring out what the other two are! See my “Weirdly Competitive” post. I know better than to add a link here… πŸ˜‰

    Well, no I don’t, but it’s already down there in the CommentLuv.

    Do I like this style? No. I think it’s unnecessarily restrictive, like an architect declaring he won’t use a 3″ screw anywhere in his designs. Or a carpenter saying he’s swearing off sawblades, and only using sandpaper, in constructing a cabinet. It’s silliness. But it does highlight the importance of simplicity, and the dangers of oversimplification.

    1. I can’t believe how much I struggled writing this; feels like the worst article I’ve ever written… and that’s saying a lot. lol I understand the simplicity part but maybe I got it wrong or didn’t understand the premise correctly. I’m still never doing it again.

  2. Hi Mitch,

    Please put the comma’s back and write like you always do! I enjoy coming here as you paint lovely pictures of the intelligent thoughts you have. I can’t believe how much comma’s change everything. This is so not you my friend.

    I have read about the no comma rule lol. I try to put that into action in sales pages, and it works great. But we always have that expectation from a blogger as we follow him or her. The writing style! Yours is so great.

    Back to your mom….I’m so glad she giggled with that trick candle lol. That must have made you feel so great. It reminds me of the days my father-in-law had dementia and we were the care takers. One giggle…that wonderful response can make you feel uplifted.

    Happy Trails!


    1. Donna, you won’t have to worry about anything like that on this blog again… if I’m writing it! lol It was an interesting experiment but I feel like it went horribly wrong.

      Mom mainly has two emotions these days; extreme anger or outrageous laughter. I’ll take the laughter over the other one any time, but I get a surreal kick out of both of them.

  3. Ahh, never say, “Never,” Mitch. (Lord, it feels good to have commas back in the arsenal, doesn’t it? Feels even better to remember they’re a renewable resource.)

    The good part of this is that, as an exercise, there’s some validity to making the writer more consciously aware of overly complex sentence structure. (I could write: As a writing exercise designed to increase bloggers’ awareness of overly complex sentences, it’s a good thing.) Anything that makes us think, proofread, and edit for clarity is a GOOD thing.

    Imposing silly rules like “no commas” just leads to awful blog posts, though. I don’t think they’re really meant to be published, other than to make that POINT. Or to respond with laughter and silliness and new challenges, as I did (click the link below)!

    Bloggers who take the advice too literally will end up doing one of two things: Writing like first graders, or writing long, complex, poorly-punctuated crap (anyway).

    It’s also eye-opening how HARD it is (especially when you add in my extra, self-imposed challenge). Why is it so hard? I think it’s because we’re so used to just writing conversationally, and we’re not editing the way we would for a more formal piece of writing. There’s a happy balance between stream of consciousness and the academic journal, and this little exercise serves as a reminder of the importance of good writing and good editing.

    1. First, you sound like that woman I’m married to with her “never say never” mantra. When Mitchell says “never”, he means “never”; always has, always will. I don’t capitulate… never! lol

      Second, I agree that it leads to bad blogging and writing, while still giving it a chance to be good sales copy. I’ve been thinking about updating the copy for my first leadership book and I might think about trying some of this. I think things like this might have its place, but that place isn’t blogging or literature… well, maybe for pre-schoolers. πŸ™‚

  4. Found your missing commas, Mitch – they’re hanging upside down in Donna’s comment, pretending to be apostrophes where they don’t belong!

    (ducking, running, grinning at Donna)

    1. What Holly did was much better than what I wrote. I think I lost the spirit halfway through the exercise. At least I proved I could do it… and don’t have to do it again.

  5. I dunno, Mitch. Are you going to let Arlee’s bravado pass unchecked, here? “I’m sure I could do it, but I’m not going to take the time.”

    As if OUR time has no value.

    As if he wouldn’t question US if we said, “I’m sure I could eat a bicycle, but I’m not gonna.” I don’t think M. Mangetout would be impressed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Lotito

    But sure, we buy it, Arlee.

  6. Well, that’s probably a fair assessment – and definitely a reasonable condition to put on bicycle eating, in general.

    But I hope you’re not saying that Mitch and I are nuts for trying less physically demanding challenges in our spare moments?

  7. Interesting concept. I like Derek’s objective…make it easier to read. And, I think it’s more about that, rather than avoid all commas.

    In practice though, I don’t like it.

    I think a better way to do things is to write shorter paragraphs. I love the way Neil Patel does this. And, I think he does write some shorter sentences, so there’s something there.

    I’m just thinking that maybe it’s doing a combo of short sentences for emphasis. I’m going to have to try my own version of this.

    1. Rich, in some ways I think of this as a generational divide. We got stuck reading books with lots of words, big words, and long sentences. If you’ve ever worked your way through Atlas Shrugged, you’ll know what I mean. Yet, I loved those books; did better with them than Shakespeare which, other than a soliloquy here and there, has lots of short sentences (though those soliloquy’s can be vast lol).

      These days, people are trying to read faster and want copy that’s more like pablum than prime rib. I know I changed a portion of my writing style on my blogs for that very reason. Yet, I got way more traffic when I was writing the other way, though I think that my stats today are a result of the big G messing with me more than anything else.

  8. Fair enough! πŸ˜€ I know THAT state of being, all too well.

    Mitch… you know what your blog hates? Your blog hates people who think and type at the same time. I get penalized for posting comments too quickly. Not because I haven’t written enough words, but because I haven’t spent enough QUALITY TIME on the post. Now, I can see that for the first comment, but you see the flaw in the design of that particular routine? It doesn’t lend itself well to CONVERSATIONS in the comments section from people who’ve already read the whole post a time or three and have moved on to giving other commenters a hard time! πŸ˜€

    1. I know what you mean about that one Holly. That’s a thing with the GASP plugin; can’t make adjustments for one thing over the other, and since Andy’s not coming back to work on it we’re stuck with it the way it is until it eventually breaks… along with breaking my heart; sniff!

  9. “…These days, people are trying to read faster and want copy that’s more like pablum than prime rib.”

    Oh, now that comment is a lovely bit of writing. Too true. But perhaps it’s because all anyone’s feeding them is moldy gruel and pablum seems a treat.

    Did you click my Peter Pan link? If you can listen to one chapter on that podcast, you’ll never want pablum again. You’ll want prime rib, medium rare, with a perfect rosemary crust, au jus, served with tendercrisp, young asparagus shoots and a steamy, flaky baked potato topped with grated Black Diamond cheddar, hand-churned creamery butter, chives fresh from the garden, and bacon so crisp it crackles between your teeth. J.M. Barrie’s use of language is a treat for the ears. And I generally LOATHE audiobooks.

  10. “Lee writes tons; knowing what I went through, I’m giving everyone a pass.” Oh, that’s fair enough – I went through it double and would do the same! I just don’t give people a pass on pretending their time’s just too valuable to bother doing something YOU did, while saying “I could if I wanted to!” πŸ˜› (We all FIND, BORROW, or STEAL the time we need to do what we want to do, and if we say “I could do that” we should expect to be asked to prove it. I usually steal my extra time from sleep, and should put a higher priority on the Zzz’s. But we manage. Fair enough to say, “That sounds ridiculous! I don’t want to do that!” or “You proved that’s a very un-fun thing to do, and I don’t enjoy reading it either, so I’m not gonna!” Even better to admit that you have a lazy streak and it’d cut into your nap or Netflix time. I love honesty.)

    The two areas where I hear that more often, and why it hits a nerve? Writing fiction (especially in November), and doing crochet. “Oh, I’d never have time to make something like that!” Usually it’s followed by, “Will you make me one?” Um, no. I’ll teach you to make your own… No? Well, then, I pass. Life’s too short… πŸ˜‰

    1. Hmmm… you obviously missed a post I wrote back last January where, oddly enough, I even linked to your blog at the time (before you updated it to 2017). It was a blogging challenge, not to you specifically but something I did that month on my local blog: imjustsharing.com/test-yourself-try-writing-a-blog-post-a-day-for-a-month/ It even got a lot of comments but I’m not sure at this point they were all legitimate lol

  11. I quit! Wait a minute; I haven’t even started it yet. Nope, no can do. Small sentences don’t require commas, says who?

    It was awesome of you to share your trials and tribulations with us, but that’s what you do, just share, isn’t it?

    1. You should check out Holly’s post where she not only did the no commas thing but a couple of other things I’d never heard of; the showoff! lol I’m with you; I need my commas to at least sound like I know what I’m talking about. And yes, that’s exactly what I do! πŸ˜‰

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