A world without commas

“Who gives a f*ck about an Oxford comma?”

So says Vampire Weekend in their amusing little song Oxford Comma. http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=P_i1xk07o4gvampire-weekend

I have returned from holidays to find that the comma key on my laptop is not working. And it makes me realise just how much I rely on commas. I briefly wondered if it was possible to write an entire novel without a comma. I’m sure some smart literary writer could do it. But I love commas. Absolutely love them. And [comma] I confess [comma] I am a punctuation Nazi.

As a professional editor [comma] I had to ‘master’ (as much as anyone can ‘master’ anything in the evolving world of English) comma usage to ensure that I was using it correctly and that when I ran training courses for technical writers that they [comma] too [comma] would know how best to use them. People tend to fall into one of two camps with commas: they either overuse them or they don’t use them enough.

I probably overuse commas. I admit it. My only defence is that I know how to use them correctly. So my style isn’t wrong; it’s probably just a bit outdated. Modern styles [comma] I’ve noticed [comma] tend to favour limited punctuation. But a comma [comma] used correctly [comma] adds so much meaning to a sentence and eliminates confusion and misinterpretation.

The comma-less novel is not for me. My laptop will be heading to the repair shop shortly.


3 comments on “A world without commas

  1. I love commas (as you know). I think the world needs more commas.

  2. Bissrok says:

    Ouch. I feel your pain. I think I fall into the overuse camp, too. I know how to use them, I just don’t particularly care sometimes and I tend to blanket my writing with them. Luckily (…I guess), I’m not in a position where that matters. And I guess I’m just very controlling about where I want the reader to pause.

  3. Steve Frahm says:

    I confess to being a user of many commas, also. In fact, I am irritated and become angry when they are used poorly or not at all. I understand commas the same way that I understand parentheses in a math problem. While there may be some confusing rules, the best rule for the use of commas is just what you articulated: to eliminate confusion and add meaning.

    Thanks for the great article on the widely ignored, easily forgotten, often maligned, yet ever important, comma.

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