Save the commas!

writing27That’s really why they came about.

First language was in the oral tradition and it wasveryhardtoreadlettersthat wereslammedalltogetheralongwith sentences that had no form of punctuation because how was one to know where to stop and where to finish know what i mean

Exhausting, right? When you teach second grade, you see a lot of this. It’s hard for kids to get a feel of where to lay the reading road map. (The “where you take a breath” thing doesn’t really help them either, if you ask me. They just add breaths wherever and match them up to the commas.)

Early influences, specifically Christianity with St. Augustine at the helm, wanted to make sure Biblical passages were read correctly because, well, it makes a difference. I’m not a master at apologetics, but I can imagine. Punctuation came into being much the way street signs emerged; as traffic (language) became busier, more signs needed to be put in place so accidents didn’t happen as easily. Like Grandma getting eaten, for example.

The comma, though, like its cousin the semi-colon, is vulnerable to trends. During my 40 years of writing, it’s been out and it’s been in. Rule followers get very opinionated, too: it’s Bobby, Joe, and Sue NOT Bobby, Joe and Sue. (The Red, White, and Blue Rule has vascilated three times during my writing career. It’s hard to keep up.)

I wonder how that makes the comma feel… It is, it’s said, the most frequently misused form of punctuation.

writingfunny4We appreciate you, comma, we do. We’re not always sure how to use you (and behalf on all of us writers I’d like to say it’s not our fault) because the rules are always changing. One thing’s for sure, though. You play an important role, and we know it. While the trend may be to get along without you, I, for one, recognize your value and unique purpose in this world. You’ll always have a place in my stories.

4 thoughts on “Save the commas!

  1. Yes, the Bobby, Joe, and Sue is the Oxford comma and I LOVE it. Not as much as parentheses or the ampersand, but it’s a definite favorite. Yet some people think it is wholly unnecessary. I TRY to be a descriptivist, not a prescriptivist, but I’m better about that with language and dialect than I am with punctuation.

    • …and the ellipsis! Don’t forget about the ellipsis! All writing is subjective in the end, even the punctuation.

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