Fanfare for the Comma Man

Fanfare for the Comma Man

I tend to get a lot of flack on the site for my writing. Punctuation and grammar aren’t really my thing, nor were they ever meant to be. I think a lot of people come to the site thinking I’m a writer who likes design, which is the opposite of the truth. I happen to be a designer who like to share what he’s into and happen to write a lot about it. But I’m a conversational writer, not a proper writer, and I don’t ever see that changing.

When I saw this op-ed piece about punctuation from University of Delaware professor Ben Yagoda, I kind of giggled because I feel like it sums me up what I do rather well.

I said earlier that personal preference and style play a big role in punctuation use, and this applies to some aspects of comma-by-sound. A modifying or transitional phrase at the beginning of a sentence can be followed by a comma or not, depending on your personal style, the meaning of the particular sentence and the length of the phrase.

So would you put a comma in the following sentences?

By this time tomorrow I’ll be in Poughkeepsie.

Generally speaking the Republicans win the Western states.

Late at night the visibility can get pretty bad.

There’s no right answer! It’s up to you! But you can see that the comma-less versions are no-nonsense and a bit brusque. With the comma, the feel is more deliberate and old-fashioned.

I’m just gonna’ keep writing like I speak. It’s worked for the lat 5 years, so I must be doing something right. If you’re into punctuation this is one you’re gonna love. If you’re not, then just enjoy the great illustration of Comma Man by Peter Arkle.

April 12, 2012 / By