The Evil King Comma

In the magical Land of Grammar, Comma is king. It’s difficult to imagine any other item of punctuation that has caused more misery and grief for college students, high-schoolers, writers, editors and English teachers. It’s an invaluable hooked little devil, but deceptive in its necessity, making it the most manipulative of marks. If the comma were able to speak, it would get together with the exclamation point to create an evil laugh: Bwah-hah-hah!

I used to be one of those smug people who thought she had mastered the comma. You know the types. I was very comma pretentious. I knew all about the Oxford comma and decided that it had no use for me. I could define “comma splice” and knew all about independent and dependent clauses. I walked with my shoulders high. Whatever, Comma. You are no match for me.

Then I swapped manuscripts with another aspiring fiction writer (the amusing and encouraging Davy Degreeff), who wrote a five-word note on one of my manuscript pages. It said: Get rid of these commas.

At that moment, every comma on the page jumped up and laughed [Bwah-hah!]. It appears I had not yet out-witted that evil master of English punctuation. But I will. Oh yes, I will.

Right after I figure out “effect” vs. “affect.”

0 Replies to “The Evil King Comma”

  1. Thanks to my music background, I tend to think in rhythm and have adopted the following rules re punctuation. Assuming the sentence is in 4/4 time:

    comma = quarter rest
    semi-colon = half rest
    colon = dotted half rest
    period = whole rest

    But thanks to my journalism background, I also tend to think it doesn’t really matter what I write, as the copy editor is going to change it anyway.

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