What’s not to like?

Here comes the regular morning email from Daily Skimm, and the subject line reads:

I like chardonnay, get better over time

Pretty soon I get a message from the superb book editor Sarah Christine Jones (whose work I highly recommend), a fellow Daily Skimm subscriber; Sarah emails:

GAH! This subject line needs another comma!

True, dear Sarah.

Like is one of those words that goes both ways: it’s a verb (I like chardonnay!) but it can also be a humble conjunction (I’m like chardonnay; I’m pretty much what chardonnay is).

Since like can be read as a verb, you have to make sure your reader doesn’t accidentally think it’s one. It’s awkward to insert a big sign that says NOT A VERB. Use commas. They’re more delicate.

In general, if you stick a describing phrase (like chardonnay) after your subject (I) but before your predicate (get better), it’s often a good idea to set the phrase off with a pair of commas. Not just one comma. Don’t be stingy. Or Sarah Christine Jones will be all in your face by noon.

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