Most magazines are copyrighted, and their copyright doubly protects your personal copyright. Newspapers are seldom copyrighted, although syndicated columns are protected. Government publications are not copyrighted either. If you write a book, the publisher will register your copyright; but make sure they register it in your name, not the name of the publishing house.
An application for copyright registration contains three essential elements: A completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable copy or copies of work or works being registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office. You can register as many of your articles, stories, and poems as you like under the same copyright, as long as all the material is sent to the Copyright Office at the same time.
Here are the options for registering your copyright, beginning with the fastest and most cost-effective method. Option 1 – Online Registration: through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred way to register literary works. The filing fee is $35. See www.copyright.gov and select register a copyright.
Option 2: You can register using fill-in forms, and the charge is $85.
The hotline number to request forms or information is 202-287-8700.
For copyright claim forms call 202-287-9100 and leave a message.
What is a copyright? A copyright is a way to protect something you create, whether writing, painting, or drawing. A copyright gives you four specific rights:
- Copy the work.
- Take excerpts to use elsewhere.
- Sell selected rights to the work and make money from it.
- Perform or display the work.
What can you copyright? Anything that is your original work: articles, poems, stories, pictures, songs, grocery lists. Anything you write down can be copyrighted except ideas, concepts, and titles. Anything regarding the expression of ideas can be copyrighted.
Since the laws were changed in 1978, you do not have to register your work with the copyright office to hold a copyright on it. Once your original material comes off your printer or pen, you own the copyright on it. If someone plagiarizes your work, however, and you want to sue him for copyright infringement, then you need to register your work with the copyright office in Washington, D.C.
For six sessions we have talked about places where we should use the comma. Now let’s talk about places where the comma may be omitted.
In a series whose elements are all joined by conjunctions, no commas are needed unless the elements are long and pauses are helpful.
Example: Is it by Beethoven or Brahms or Bach? Of course it would not be wrong to say:
Is it by Beethoven, Brahms, or Bach?
When elements in a series involve internal punctuation, or when they are very long and complex, they should be separated by semicolons.
Example: The brown, fuzzy-wuzzy bear; the black and white panda bear; and the snowy-white, fat polar bear were all friends.
When an ampersand is used instead of the word “and,” as in company names, the serial comma is omitted.
Example: Dooey, Soakum & Howe
These examples end our seven sessions on commas.
Other Uses of the Comma
The comma denotes a slight pause. The effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with ease of reading as the main goal. A comma is used when a slight pause is intended.
A comma usually follows “yes,” “no,” “well,” and the like, at the beginning of a sentence if a slight pause is intended. Likewise, a comma follows an exclamation “oh” or “ah” only if a slight pause is intended.
The abbreviation, “etc.” is both preceded and followed by a comma when it is the final item in the series. Such English equivalents as “and so forth,” “and the like,” are usually treated the same way. Example: Cats, dogs, parrots, etc., must be confined to cages when flying in airplanes.
A comma follows names or words used in direct address as well as in informal correspondence.
Example: Friends, I’m here to tell you an important story.
Example: Dear Mary,
Commas in Lists of Items
According to The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manuel of Style, when listing three items, a comma is placed after the first and second items (Paper, pen, and writer). Some publishers omit the second comma, but they won’t fault you for not knowing their style. The important thing is to be consistent, so the editor can match the style sheet to your manuscript. Plus, if the list contains multiple words, it can be confusing if you don’t add the second comma. (His pets consisted of a long-haired cat, a short-haired dog, and a very noisy parrot.)
The exception to this rule concerns the name of businesses such as law firms which usually omit the last comma (Dewey, Sokum and Howe).
To further complicate things, if the list of items includes commas, they should be set off by semi-colons (The blank, white sheet of paper; the black, fine-line pen; and the ready, spirit-filled writer).
Commas in Adverbial Phrases and Clauses
When the main clause of a sentence is preceded by a phrase or a subordinate clause, you may use a comma to separate the phrase. (Sitting in the back, the group cheered wildly.) or (During the performance, the group cheered wildly.)
If the interruption to the flow of the sentence is slight, however, the comma may be omitted. The comma is usually omitted after short, introductory, adverbial phrases. (On Tuesday Bill was absent from class.)
An adverbial phrase or clause located between the subject and the verb should usually be set off by commas. (Bill, after picking up his assignment, went home.)
Commas should be used to set off interjections, transitional adverbs, and similar elements that affect a distinct break in the continuity of thought. (On the other hand, Bill may be right.) (Yes, Bill was right after all.)
Using Commas in Dialogue
There seems to be some confusion when using commas in dialogue. The commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks, whether single or double. Example: “I want to go with you,” he said. Or: He said, “I want to go with you.” I constantly see errors regarding this rule in print. The Chicago Manual of Style says this is the traditional style, and was used well before the first edition of the manual in 1906.
Question marks and exclamation points go inside if they are part of the dialogue and outside if they are part of the entire sentence. Example: Why did I keep hearing over and over in my head the words, “I’ll never forget you”? Before he said good-bye, he asked, “Will I ever forget you?”
“Commas in Adverbial Phrases and Clauses” will be the topic of next week’s blog.
Now let’s look at some basic rules regarding commas:
Always place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause. In other words, place a comma between two independent clauses separated by a conjunction. Independent clauses have a subject and a verb, and they can stand alone. (The situation looked hopeless, but there was one remaining chance for success.) or (The situation looked hopeless, but I didn’t believe it.)
However, do not join independent clauses with a comma if they are lacking a conjunction. They need to be joined with a semi-colon, or they can be cut into two separate sentences. (The situation looked hopeless; there was one remaining chance for success.) or (The situation looked hopeless. There was one remaining chance for success.)
A common mistake made with the comma is to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause when they are joined with a conjunction. (I was told the situation looked hopeless but didn’t believe it.) Each clause must have a subject in order to need a comma before the conjunction.
Misuse of the comma in this way is one of the most common errors made in writing .
We are beginning a seven-part series on “The Elusive Comma.”
“The comma, which seems to cup the sense of the preceding phrase and hold it out to us, timidly and respectfully, is one of our greatest breakthroughs. The civilizing influence of this punctuation aid derives partly from its odd shape, the shape of mosquito larvae and sea horses: close inspection reveals the implied high culture of its asymmetrical tapering swerve, so distinctly an advantage over the more rustic period.” –Nicholson Baker
The punctuation error that seems to occur most often in the hundreds of manuscripts crossing my desk each year is misuse of the comma. It is important to learn when to use and when not to use commas. To make matters worse, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Handbook, and most grammar books list different rules. Most Christian publishers have their own style sheets, but they basically follow The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard in the book publishing industry. Since it is costly, I suggest you buy Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style to help you with grammar, punctuation, and word usage. First copyrighted in 1935, this little 92-page book is packed with all the basics. It can be purchased inexpensively at any secular or on-line bookstore.
Here are my last three suggested endings for articles, stories, or book chapters. I have given examples of each type of ending from chapters in my own books.
- The Straight Statement Close – This editorial close consists of a few sentences or a final thought in the author’s own words.
“I needed to allow others to be themselves. When I dated someone, I tried to accept him for who he was—not for who I wanted him to be. Through this time, I always felt God had someone special planned for me. When I was ready, and my ‘Mr. Perfect’ was ready, God would allow us to meet” (“Turning Frogs into Princes,” Rest Stops for Single Mothers).
- The Stinger – This unexpected conclusion provides an ending that startles, surprises, or shocks.
“Elbows jabbed their ribs; feet tangled with theirs; the unrelenting mob moved on until they came to the place where the old man lay. Bending down, they touched the old man’s arm, now grown cold. They were too late” (“Too Little, Too Late,” Potpourri of Praise).
- The Word of Advice Close – This warning or word of advice points a verbal finger at the reader.
“Loving too much leaves us open to the danger of being hurt, but loving too little can cause us to forget how to love and forget how to live” (“Loving Too Little, Loving Too Much,” Rest Stops for Single Mothers).
Whatever ending you chose, give your article or story a solid conclusion. Don’t just let your story die. Provide the readers with food for thought that they can digest and use in their own lives to help others and themselves move closer to the Lord.