A college professor once dubbed me the “comma queen.” I love commas. They’re probably the most useful piece of punctuation ever. (When I say useful I mean I actually think about using them.) (Periods just exist. They’re mindless automatons.)
One of the more interesting issues I’ve come up against since I’ve returned to the school world is the use and misuse of punctuation. There are at least three camps, in both school-school and work-school.
The first is one that doesn’t even really acknowledge punctuation. This group includes younger students whose only real-world exposure to writing is online and heavily truncated. Most of us participate in this group at some point or another (ie: Twitter). In this world, periods still exist in the traditional form but that’s pretty much the only form that looks familiar to the other two camps.
Secondly, we have the group that recognizes proper and improper use of punctuation, specifically the comma – because it is most prone to misuse. I’d say most of us fall into this category. The prevailing mindset is, “as long as it doesn’t get in my way, I don’t really care whether that clause must have another subject in order for the comma to be valid.”
Finally, there are the grammar nazis. We’ve all met them. Maybe we are them? (Writers and editors, I’m talking to you.) Here is where we get into situations where all communication grinds to a halt until the comma splice is remedied.
As a “comma queen,” I don’t generally get along with people in the third group. I tend to fight with them because 99.7% of the time they are wrong. (Writers and editors, I’m talking to you.) No one has any difficulty discerning meaning when a comma is misused. I, could, put, commas, everywhere, and, you, would, still, catch, my, drift. You know?
Sometimes they have a valid point. Sometimes the presence or absence of commas is really important (not just in clever books, like the above one which I quite enjoy, but in real, actual life).
I came across an example where the Comma Coalition would have won the battle, had a battle been waged. As I worked my way through a stack of essays the other day, I encountered a little piece on the importance of a morally upstanding police force. Here is what I read:
“They protect the weak and hurt and arrest the bad.”
Touché, grammar nazis, touché.