Some Common Sense on Commas

[responsive]rachelray01[/responsive]“A lot of people are taught that a comma goes anywhere you want to indicate a pause. On the surface, that system appears to work out fine. Commas often do just that. But not always,” writes editor June Casagrande in the Glendale News-Press.

She’s right that many of us are taught that a comma equals a pause. She’s also right that this is far from a definitive rule of usage.

Casagrande dives into exquisite detail on the use of commas in noncoordinate and coordinate adjectives, providing an explanation that is likely far too deep for the average reader. She also makes it clear that a lot of this is “personal judgment.” True enough, but if your job is to help manage your brand, some lines must be drawn.

Take the Oxford comma debate. That question continues to make the rounds on social channels — and continues to elicit eye rolls from the (majority of) people who don’t understand the problem. After all, it’s just a comma, right? Who cares?

If you are fortunate enough to have writers and editors working for you who do understand the difference, be good to them. If you have people on your team who understand that the comma goes before which, but not that, make the effort to bring consistency throughout your publication. Listen to those heroes of punctuation when they rant about the troglodytes with whom they are forced to work who have never met a semi-colon they didn’t like. Then quietly hand them a cupcake; it’s probably just low blood sugar.

Make and use editorial guidelines that cover this stuff in black and white. Not only will it make your life easier, it will raise the quality that you put out into the world.

Live long, eat cupcakes and punctuate properly.