Some Kind Words About Commas
 
By Joe Devine
 
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Commas are our friends. And they are good friends, too. They perform many and varied services for us with never a complaint. They ask for no pay, they do not have to be fed or put out at night, and they never criticize or talk back. They are nonperishable, renewable, totally reliable and are guaranteed to do what they claim they can do. Can anyone or anything else equal that performance? Hardly. No other punctuation mark bears greater burdens, no other mark has so wide a variety of tasks to perform and no other mark serves us more faithfully.

Commas began as periods…. They were, to be sure, a different kind of period. Different because of the tremendous amount of work they accomplished, and for other reasons too, which were never recorded. Gradually as the centuries passed, certain comma-like periods began to sag under the great burdens they bore. They sagged, and they sagged until finally, in one great spasm, they sprang into their present comma shape—graceful but strong.

This passage is taken from Commas Are Our Friends, which was published in 1989 by Green Stone Publications (Seattle) and which promises to teach “grammar without grief [and] punctuation without pain.”