The Grama Queen

by Bonnie Smiler

“Comma, comma, comma, comma, com, comma, comma, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah . . . “ (with apologies to Jimmy Jones singing “Handyman”

Have you noticed the overabundance of commas? There must be a glut on the market, a special deal at Costco, or maybe it’s the latest fad. Perhaps there is a contest to see which writers can use them the most. It seems that any time spaces between words within any written sentence take a breath, someone has to put in a comma whether it is necessary or not. Just because there is an “and,” an adverb, or a prepositional phrase doesn’t mean a comma is required, but you would never know that from current newspaper articles, essays, fiction, etc., which even go so far as to use commas to separate a subject from a predicate in a sentence. (Gramarital problems?) While there is flexibility in how certain commas are used, many writers ignore or have forgotten comma-use rules.

Language is adaptable and customs do change, but the latest overuse of commas seems to be a lack of knowledge of proper grammar, not a rebellion against an edition of Warriner’s. Therefore, the next time you use that comma, stop and think: Do I really need this? There are several good comma-use websites, and here is a helpful one for reference:

P.S. Ironically, incorrectly omitting the comma after a city, state, in the middle of the sentence also seems to be the trend. Thus, instead of “The Write Group meets in Montclair, NJ, at the library,” we get “The Write Group meets in Montclair, NJ at the library,” with the post NJ comma missing from the second example. [Sigh.]

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