Comma-tose

I am a fan of the comma. It’s under-appreciated and under-utilized.

Except when it’s over-valued and worked to death.

3 ways NOT to use the beloved comma:

1. Agatha Christie’s, The Stranger (Belmont, MA)

The author’s work, and the name of the work — no need to keep them from each other. It’s Agatha Christie’s The Stranger, pure and simple.

2. Parsons didn’t identify any problems but suggested the town, “regulate time, place, and manner….”

Dick said, “Look!” It’s customary to use a comma to separate a direct quotation from the “he said” type of phrase. You DON’T need a comma before every darn quotation mark. In fact, even when it’s a direct quotation, you don’t need a comma if the quotation works as part of the overall sentence, and you’re not setting up a formal “he said” type of presentation. For example: Dick says that “this exquisite woman Jane is the epitome of womanhood,” and I couldn’t agree more.

3. He spent $40,000 to restore the classic car which, he had for a dozen years….

You sometimes need a comma before which, but almost never after. The technical rule is complicated. Just trust me on this one.

Save your commas. Keep them in a little box on your desktop, and only bring them out when you must. Maybe Christmas, and Agatha Christie’s birthday.

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