About Writing on Wednesdays: I’m Confused, Where’s That Comma Go Again?

Grammar, I understand, is an important tool in a writer’s arsenal. I haven’t seen anyone ‘taste’ grammar as I have seen them do with a word, but still I’m sure it’s at least as important as the words used to write a story. It is up to the writer to set the mood, rhythm and voice of their work with the grammar they use.

During the course of my self-education I have learned commas are important, and complicated. According to Margaret Shertzer, author of The Elements of Grammar, there are thirty-one different ways to use a comma.  Strunk and White devotes six and a half pages to them in their book, The Elements of Style. *Shudder* No need to cringe, I have no intention of going over them. If you’re in to self-torture go ahead.

I ran across this definition of commas from World English Dictionary:

the punctuation mark(,) indicating a slight pause in the spoken sentence and used where there is a listing of items or to separate a nonrestrictive clause or phrase from a main clause

I like that description. Short, sweet and to the point. Me, being me, can’t leave it alone. No, I need more description. Back I go to Shertzer, Strunk and White; my eyes cross and I get a bit of a buzz in my head while I work out all the intricacies of what you can and can’t do with commas. Commas, I’m pretty sure, are the invention of some little minor demon in hell to give even the devil a headache.

Commas are misused, according to an article I read about them not too long ago. I’m pretty sure that’s true. I know I abuse them in a gleeful manner on a regular basis, and no wonder. Who wouldn’t want to abuse such prudish, uptight punctuation? Besides it’s so easy to do. Evidently.

According to another article I read the use of a comma is up to the writer.  What?! I’ve stressed over my commas, colons and semi-colons for nothing? But wait, according to this same writer they’re misused. I’m scratching my head.

My conclusion is there are basic rules for commas as indicated in the dictionary’s definition. The how of using a comma seems to depend on who you talk to or read, what you’re writing, who you’re writing for (as in your publisher, etc.), your audience and if you’re willing to say kiss my asterisk, I’m putting that dang comma here, so there.

Do you use commas correctly? Or do you enjoy to abusing those suckers? Do you stress over commas? Are you a comma-phobe, like me? Did you know you can italicize a comma? You sure can, here it is:

English: A normal and an italicized comma in T...


The articles I’ve referenced:




Curio’s Past, Shhh.