Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Comma Sutra

Sometimes, you know, people, um, overuse commas, which are punctuation marks, and that can be really, really annoying. That is the case today. This "Across the USA" blurb from an old issue of USA Today has only one comma, but it's one too many.

Commas are often necessary. They can create clarity; they can provide a brief pause.

We use them to separate items in a series...

I want to visit London, Seattle, Vancouver and Los Angeles.

We use them to separate independent clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction...

My brother and I went to a football game in Gainesville, and the Gators won 37-13.

We use them to set off nonessential clauses, phrases and words from the rest of the sentence...

Michael J. Fox, the actor who starred in Back to the Future, has Parkinson's disease.

Commas serve other purposes as well, though they are not used between the subject and the verb, as is the case here. If this were the way it worked, we'd have sentences like this:

He, loves pizza.

And this:

The attractive woman, took off her clothes.

These comma positions are outrageous, and this practice must be stopped. I'm going to look into getting a local affiliate of the ACLU to provide legal assistance in the case of Owen v. Comma Misuse.

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