Thanks to my editing mentor, I own the illustrated version of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. An illustrated grammar book, you say? Strange, but true.
Commas give a lot of people heartburn. They have certainly given me my share. But, this weekend was different. This weekend I wanted to give that pesky punctuation mark a great big hug.
When my kids were growing up they drove me crazy with commas. They used commas where periods needed to go. When reading their school compositions, I would always have to take a really deep breath first. Talk about a run-on sentence!
I am also a recovering editor. Ok…I still edit…but I am doing my best to repress the silly arguments editors around me used to have over misplaced modifiers, nominalizations, and yes, punctuation, like commas. Grammar nerds! You’d think there were better things to discuss in this world. My favorite comma debate topic: Should we use serial commas before and in a list? In case you are wondering, here’s my position: It isn’t technically wrong and it just might save you some serious embarrassment, so why not always use the comma just in case.
THE CASE FOR SERIAL COMMAS
I will eat apples, bananas, and figs. Comma not really necessary but it isn’t hurting anybody.
I would like to introduce you to my parents, Bill Gates and Martha Stewart. Yikes! Those aren’t my parents. Get a comma, STAT!
But, I digress. You have either abandoned reading this post or you are still wanting to know why in the world I want to hug a comma.
It happened this Saturday morning when I was awakened by my oldest son. He had come over to our house after finishing his night shift. His new manufacturing job has been challenging, but it has provided him study work and he is discovering the benefits.
Shoulders back and head high, he stood like a giant at the foot of my bed and said in a monotone, nonchalant voice,
“Well, I got my first paycheck with a comma in it.”
He is a man of few, well-chosen, and subtle words where happy emotions are concerned. I’ll interpret his statement for you.
Woo hoo! Hooray! Let’s celebrate! I’ve done it! Take THAT adult world!
This was a major milestone. And, he came by to share it with us. He has struggled and fought and learned the hard way through life, and now at 22, he finally did it! He got a paycheck with a comma in it.
So, my dear comma, thank you for making us pause, slow down, and reveal your bounty. I have never truly admired just how remarkable you look in a number. Thank you, dear comma! You made our day.
Illustrating grammar does make it a more colorful subject. From The Elements of Style.