Carpe Weekend: Grammar Snob V: The Comma Sutra
By Jason Freeman firstname.lastname@example.org March 28, 2012 3:36PM
According to Jason Freeman, knowing when and when not to use a comma is an important step in the path to grammatical enlightenment.
Updated: January 17, 2013 10:51AM
No matter how attractive or witty I find a woman, the second she uses the words “ain’t” or “irregardless” in a sentence, the date is over.
If you find that notion a bit too extreme, consider this: The manner in which you speak not only reflects your intelligence, but your capacity to effectively communicate with other human beings.
If you believe the plethora of lifestyle magazines out there, communication is the key to a healthy relationship.
And although I don’t have subscriptions to Cosmo or Seventeen, I agree that nothing kills the romance faster than an inability for couples to efficiently communicate with each other.
So, instead of waiting months for bad grammar to slowly erode a relationship, I’d rather cut my losses before the appetizers have even hit the table during date one.
The good thing about this, of course, is when you find that special someone who knows the difference between “they’re” and “their,” wedding bells are sure to follow.
Well, maybe not, but at least you know you’re on your way to the main course and, if you’re lucky, dessert.
I thought it was about time to tackle that pesky punctuation mark: the comma.
You don’t actually see the comma during speech, but you can sense it as a slight pause in conversation.
Knowing when and when not to use it is an important step in the path to grammatical enlightenment.
Only use commas to set apart clauses that aren’t integral to the understanding of the sentence.
You wouldn’t write, “The book, containing all of those salacious commas, is too risque for publication” because the clause “containing all of those salacious commas” states which book is too risque for publication.
Kill the commas.
The flip side of the unnecessary comma is the missing comma.
If the clause isn’t needed to fully grasp the meaning of the sentence, set it off with commas.
For example, use commas in the following sentence: “Jason Freeman, who considers a restraining order an intimate relationship, shouldn’t be doling out relationship advice.”
When you have an introductory element in a sentence, use a comma.
With that in mind, you’d say, “Before you use the information contained in the pages of ‘The Comma Sutra,’ make sure to light a few candles and put on a Barry White record.”
The comma comes after the word “Sutra” because it’s where one naturally would pause when saying the sentence aloud.
(Note: If you want to improve your chances of an amorous encounter, don’t actually say the sentence aloud. It’s a mood killer.)