Good Comma

April 27, 2010 § 4 Comments

It was our good karma to run across two thoughtful acknowledgments of the humble comma in the past 24 hours, and so we share them both, anon:

PICO IYER, In Praise of the Humble Comma:

A world that has only periods is a world without inflections. It is a world without shade. It has a music without sharps and flats. It is a martial music. It has a jackboot rhythm. Words cannot bend and curve. A comma, by comparison, catches the gentle drift of the mind in thought, turning in on itself and back on itself, reversing, redoubling and returning along the course of its own sweet river music; while the semicolon brings clauses and thoughts together with all the silent discretion of a hostess arranging guests around her dinner table.

TIM O’BRIEN, from the Big Think Interview:

It’s forgotten by readers, I think, or largely forgotten, that there are 26 letters in the alphabet and some punctuation marks and that’s all we’ve got.  And that is what I work with sitting in my underwear, day after day, year after year.  I use 26 letters and these punctuation marks.  And out of that, characters come and moral quandaries are explored.  But in the end, the work of writing unfortunately is really the battling with A, B, C, D, and that comma which is so incalcitrant.

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