The Common, but Contrary, Comma.

As someone who enjoys words of the written variety, I take an interest in issues of grammar. Some might argue that I don't take quite enough of an interest much of the time and, to be fair, most of my working knowledge has come from a kind of osmosis through reading. While I can find fault in the punctuation of others, sometimes this radar is a little under-used on my own work. But I try.

Years ago when I was visiting a friend in the UK, she gave me a book that we both found tremendously informative AND hilarious (my favourite kind of book). It's called Punctuation by Graham King and it is genius!
For example, the main chapter on punctuation is called Devices for Separating and Joining and the sections within have names like Scree-e-e-eech! The Full Stop and The Common, but Contrary, Comma and The Serviceable Semicolon and The Seductive Embrace of Parenthesis (Brackets). Aren't they great names!

Anyway, I have been spending a nice half hour reading a little bit of it again and thought I'd include part of a section which is (and let's be honest here) quite pertinent to my own writing. Because as you may have noticed over time, I overuse commas to a fault! (And exclamation marks, but that's by-the-by.)

The comma is the most flexible, most versatile of all the punctuation marks. Because it is the least emphatic mark it is also the most subtle and complex. And contrary. Not surprisingly, many writers feel a nagging uncertainty about using commas.

While the full stop bring proceedings to a screeching halt, the comma, with its mortar-like ability to build complex sentences, enlarges upon thoughts, joins them to further thoughts and afterthoughts, binds in extra information, and generally has a good time. A writer with full command of the comma can have a ball.

See why I love commas so much? I mean what's not to love about a punctuation mark that "generally has a good time" and allows writers to "have a ball"?


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