Monday, November 24, 2014

Are commas important?

Punctuation rules seem to be changing. I am fairly certain that this is due, in part, to texting and tweeting, where space or time are limited and "you know what I mean" is approved. I have also read that punctuation affects each line of an ebook and therefore trimming commas is "approved."

Recently I received a sample edit from an editor seeking future work. She deleted hyphens from adjectives where I am pretty sure they are supposed to be used. That's how I learned the rules.

I know language evolves. I have accepted that the comma before "and" in a set of three+ descriptors is optional. Yet there are times when my meaning could be misconstrued if I modernize and do not put in that comma before and.

This is an example from a grammar post by MM Pollard, the queen of English:
"I posted the pictures of the strippers, JFK, and Stalin."
"I posted the pictures of the strippers, JFL and Stalin."

Do you trim punctuation to keep up with "modern" rules?


  1. I used to know when and where to use commas 'correctly' but, as you say, the rules keeps changing. I was taught never to use a comma before a conjunction (especially 'and' and 'but') and it still grates on me when I put in that pesky comma!

  2. The rules do change. As long as they are there for clarification, then it's fine. Some editors remove them per their publication's style.

  3. It is confusing when the rules keep changing. And commas seem to be 'optional' more times than not. Sometimes, it's okay to use them in a different manner than the normal 'rules', but sometimes you need them for meaning as in your example.

    Our seventh grade grammar teacher wears a shirt that says:

    Commas save lives...
    Is it...Let's eat, children.
    Let's eat children.

    It always makes me smile.

  4. I read somewhere that you use commas where your gut feeling tells you to use them. The old 'rules' have flown of the window!