Nov 30, 2009

Commas

Happy post-Thanksgiving to the Americans...and to me, because I have great Canadian in-laws who use me as an excuse to sneak in a second Thanksgiving :)

Today's post is more of an FYI than a how-to article, because commas are a much bigger topic than I'm prepared to handle right now.

In short, though - you may be using too many commas. Or not enough. For most practical purposes, you don't have to actually stress over every comma, you just have to avoid excess. If you're adding commas because you seem to remember your English teacher telling you to use commas in a certain context, you're probably using way too many. If you're cutting them when you think you need them because you read something about comma overuse and are trying not to use any, you're probably using way too few.

If commas really stress you out, it's worth picking up a style guide and reading up on them rather than blindly trying to strike out and add/smite at every opportunity.

5 comments:

LaDeeDah said...

Precisely articulated. Everything you said, I know to be true.

Hayley said...

Back in the day, I worked with a British copy editor who would send me his pages to proofread. I'd add commas, send the page back, and he'd take 'em all out. This went on every night for years.

It was a quiet battle.

Hayley said...

By "back in the day" I mean "until a year or so ago." I'm not yet as old as I think I am.

Erin said...

Comma battles are scary. Everyone really, really thinks they know the right way. It's a point of pride if you consider yourself any good with technical writing matters.

In your case, I'd say that the Brit would have to win, because he can always whip out the "this is the way the Queen likes it" card. Can't argue with that. I think it's actually a felony in Canada to criticize the Queen's punctuation.

Hayley said...

And we may never, ever call her Elizabeth, II.