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Q. Is it a grave error that I wrote “If I’d had time, alone, with my mother’s body, I might have caressed her face” in lieu of “If I’d had time alone with my mother’s body”? I understand that I felt a pause around the word alone and therefore decided to use the commas. I also realize that the pause doesn’t mean that a comma is necessary. Using the commas around alone seemed to underscore the gravity of the situation, the aloneness of the situation. Will an editor be inclined to throw away my manuscript because of a small error like this?
A. A wayward comma is rarely a “grave error.” A good editor will ask you to clarify your intended meaning and then work with you to get the punctuation right.