Comma-Kazi: Punctuation, A Forgotten Art!

WRITTEN August 16, 2018 Author: Rich Atkins

Punctuation plays a central role in conveying meaning to the reader. Punctuation provides structure and organization to the written language you use. How should this sentence be punctuated?

Woman without her man is nothing

If you want an answer to this, click here.

Has using your smartphone gotten you into bad habits where it comes to punctuation?
If the answer is yes, then your reader can think one of two things:

  • The writer doesn’t know any better, and this is the best s/he could do; or
  • The writer does know better, and doesn’t care.

Show your audience that you care (and are smart) by punctuating correctly. The Comma is akin to a “Yield” sign, or even a speed bump on the roads we travel. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word comma comes directly from the Greek komma, which means something cut off or a short clause. Here are some punctuation reminders about commas that you may have forgotten or not known:

 

The Comma (,)

  • Precedes coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, etc.). Aspirin may help reduce high blood pressure, and may reduce risk of heart disease. I was going, but I changed my mind.
  • Separates introductory elements. Before recorded history, dinosaurs roamed the earth.
  • Sets off nonessential elements. The company, located in Oklahoma, delivers quickly.
  • Separates items in a series. We need a stapler, a phone, and a laptop.
  • Separates adjectives describing the same noun, except when the adjectives are cumulative (can’t be rearranged). She is a sincere, faithful friend. He wore a dark silk suit.
  • Sets off quotes. Then she said, “How about the budget?”
  • Sets off appositives. This is Rudy, my coworker.
  • Separates the day from the date, and the date from the year. Friday, June 15, 2013
  • Separates street, town, and state in addresses / places names. 445 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022
  • Separates every third decimal place in long numbers. $7,256,463 3,214 feet
  • Prevents misreading. Before testing the boiler was dismantled. (Does that say, “Before testing the boiler…”? No, it’s supposed to be, “Before testing, the boiler was dismantled.”)

CHALLENGE

Oxford Comma

If you were a judge in a probate court, deciding how to divide an estate, how would you interpret the following statement?

I bequeath my estate to Fred, Loretta and Jim.


Would you divide it in thirds, or would you offer 50% to Fred and 50% to Loretta and Jim to split?

The University of Oxford Style Guide has dropped use of this “Serial Comma.” Improving Communications encourages its use, to ensure clarity for the reader.

THE DIFFERENCE A COMMA CAN MAKE:

“Disregard my love.”

“Disregard, my love.”

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