The comma is my friend. Too friendly. I use too many of them when I write. We all learned in elementary school when to use a comma in the basic sense: in lists, to separate clauses, to enclose parenthetical words/phrases, between adjectives, before quotations, in dates, etc. One of my favorite writer websites if Writers Write and they have a series they call Punctuation for Beginners which goes up on Tuesdays. In general, I like to noodle around on grammar sites for refreshers as it’s been a while since I learned grammar. Yesterday, the post was All About Commas. I learned a little about writing, but mostly I found the humor.
I think my biggest problem is the parenthetical word/phrase use. I put a lot of parenthetical information in my writing for clarification and that requires a comma. Until I looked over that post and then dug a little deeper, I realized that I could use the comma as a flag to edit (well, as another way to edit). If I examine the use of commas in a sentence, and I’ve stuck in clarifying information that could be written another way with even more clarity – Voila! – better writing.
A woman that I work with refuses to use The Oxford Comma. We have good-natured arguments on a fairly regular basis (she is also a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and I’m a Baltimore Ravens fan so we argue about more than the comma). The Oxford Comma is defined, in the Oxford Dictionary, as “an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.” I send her any memes I come across that make the Oxford Comma critical to the meaning of the sentence in a funny way, like (pics not included):
After beating the Steelers, Tim Tebow thanked his parents, God, and Ms. Trunchbull.
After beating the Steelers, Tim Tebow thanked his parents, God and Ms. Trunchbull.
We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.
We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.
Of course, there is the standard comma humor, too:
Let’s eat, Grandma versus Let’s eat Grandma.
And “Stop clubbing, baby seals.”
I could go on and on with the funny stuff, but you get the idea and I’m sure you’ve seen these all over the ‘net. Do you have favorite grammar humor? Or a problem with being too free with your punctuation?