Saturday, June 20, 2015

Comma, Over Here

I've noticed missing commas in everyone's writing in recent years, and it really makes any narrative, fiction or non-fiction, pleasure or business, really clunky. Words jam together in the reader's mind, and the writing appears amateurish at best. The source of this trend is obvious; we frequently communicate through abbreviated mediums, including text messaging, Twitter, and others. In the interest of minimizing length, a comma is often the first punctuation mark to disappear.

Yet, headlines, which have always been required to be short and able to quickly grab a reader's attention, have not traditionally omitted commas. Why? Let's revisit the old adage about the panda, because it does a really succinct job of illustrating the importance of the comma - and why the trend of leaving out this essential punctuation mark is about to drive this copy editor crazy.

"The panda eats shoots and leaves." This one's great, and you'll notice, there are no commas whatsoever. I am not suggesting commas are always necessary. But add a comma here or there, and suddenly, you've got a whole new narrative, with exciting possibilities.

"The panda eats shoots, and leaves." So, this panda apparently had somewhere to be after he finished his bamboo dinner!

"The panda eats, shoots, and leaves." Wow, I guess the service at the restaurant must have been really terrible! And what in the world did he have to eat that prompted such violence?

My point: commas are important. It's okay if you forget them - that's what I'm here for. A good copy editor can help you convey exactly what you are trying to say to your readers, utilizing, among other things, smooth comma usage!

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