Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The comma: Are you kidding me?

I would love to get my hands on the sadistic grammarphile who first developed the comma. A piece of punctuation that resembles a sperm with scoliosis, the comma has more rules than the TSA, and is about as infuriating as going through one of their airport screenings. Why is the comma such a mystery? I have seen editors come to blows about how to use the infernal thing in a sentence. And if the comma is to suggest a pause, then why do we even put such markers in our reading. Who wants to pause? We are all in such a rush these days, so let’s just hit the gas, get through the damn sentence, and on to the next one. We don’t have commas on our roads, no matter how many people try to turn stop signs into pause signs, then why do we have them in literature. I mean they’re just words, right? Open to the subjective interpretation of the reader, and bound to garner praise as well as ridicule. Shouldn’t the placement of the comma be up to the discretion of the writer? I put a comma here, because I damn well feel like it. If congress can waste the country’s time and money debating on the whether or not redwood trees in California should be given legal citizenship, then why can’t writer’s be free to write without all of those commas getting in the way. Why is so much of what a writer does governed by rules? Then again, why is so much of life overseen by rules? Everywhere we turn these days there are more and more rules being touted by institutions, governments, businesses, and mothers. And who writes these rules? Who is the person that gets to say when you are old enough to drive, to marry, to have sex, to go to war, to drink, and to do just about anything that involves the use of your brain. Not all rules are meant to arbitrarily blanket a society filled with such a diverse array of peoples and cultures. We have built a world so constricted by the regulations of others, that we have forgotten how to please the individual inside of us. And to ignore who we are will invariably lead to the destruction of what we are. Society must learn to embrace the individual before it creates more rules that will eventually stifle every unique voice. I guess in many ways people are a lot like commas. Every now and then we should pause and appreciate all of the individuals that have enriched our lives up until that moment, before we move on to the next. A shame life doesn’t imitate literature sometimes. Imagine all of the wonderful characters we could have taken the time to cherish if only a comma had been there to remind us. Now don’t even get me started on the semi colon.        


Gerry McCullough said...

Hi, Alexandrea. Interesting post. May I say a word or two in support of the poor, down-trodden comma? Editors have been trying to get rid of it for quite a while. But in my opinion it's a very necessary piece of the writer's equipment. If we race on through our sentences cutting out all the commas, we end up with something which the reader finds it hard to understand. 'Eats, shoots and leaves' is an obvious example of putting commas in the wrong place, but there are many examples of the opposite mistake. I wish I could cleverly think of one off the top of my head!
And did you realise that in around twenty sentences (a rough count) you felt the need to use around twenty commas?
All the best with your interesting blog.

JT Lewis said...

Alexandrea, you hit the nail on the head, commas seem useless, sometimes.


Love the post, but am still confused on their usage as is every writer I'm afraid.

Can't wait for the semicolon; that b*st*rd gets me every time!