Comma Cropper

See? I’m not the only one upset about commas. Newsweek’s Robert J. Samuelson is, too. He doesn’t seem to share my angst specifically about the serial comma, mind you. But still, in this week’s column, “The Sad Fate of the Comma,” he observes:

Commas are disparaged as literary clutter. They’re axed in the name of stylistic “simplicity.” Once, introductory prepositional phrases (“In 1776, Thomas Jefferson … “) routinely took commas; once, compound sentences were strictly divided by commas; once, sentences that began with “once,” “naturally,” “surprisingly,” “inevitably” and the like usually took a comma to set them apart.

No more. These and other usages have slowly become discretionary or unacceptable. Over the years, copy editors have stripped thousands of defenseless commas from my stories. I have saved every last one of them and piled them all on a secluded corner of my desk. They deserve better than they’re getting. So here are some of my discarded commas, taking a long-overdue bow: ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.

I’m not quitting quietly. By my count, this column contains 104 commas. Note to copy desk: leave them be.

Right on, Robert. Read the whole thing here.

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