09 January 2012

My Love Grip on the Comma

In early texts there was no punctuation, just letters, one after another . . .

If I lived a past life, I’m certain that, in it, I was one of those readers of early texts busy inserting my own punctuation wherever I felt it enhanced the telling of the story.

I still do it. Worse, most times I am completely unaware of the number of commas on my own written page. They hide from me, chameleon-like, knowing if I can’t see them, I can’t remove them.

Even when I try to limit the use of my precious commas, I still over-insert them. Forget “word count” devices, someone needs to invent “comma count” software for the dramatic reader in all of us—okay, in me—who thrives on pregnant pauses.

Love those, as often as possible.

So, I ask you, if I relinquish my love grip on the comma, what will happen to me? Will I find myself making goo-goo eyes at the semi-colon (oh, please, no) or suddenly writing very short, plain sentences (anything but that) or…?

As you can see, I can’t change my punctuating ways—the risk of the unknown is far too great.

Here, in this moment, I publicly declare that I shall continue my love affair with that magic, breath-stopping, transformational little mark, the comma.

And, together, we will live happily ever after on the e-pages of romantic thrillers on Kindles, Nooks, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, iPads, PCs, and smart phone screens everywhere.

—Ashley Barron, Comma Chameleon

Painting: William Adolphe Bouguereau, The Difficult Lesson (1884)


  1. For me it's all about the em dash--and if I give up on that? Maybe I'll go for the comma? :)

  2. Hehehe! I see that you really do love the comma. I had a fling with the comma once upon a time, but it's all yours now!

  3. I am a comma junkie, and lately an exclamation point junkie in blog comments. I can't seem to stop using the darn thing.

  4. What a happy post, Gary! Thank you for sharing yourSelf with us! Wish I could jump up and hug you:)

  5. Julia, it takes talent to use the em dash, and I don't think it's used enough. Certain heavy lifting requires an em dash. I believe it is like a neglected and unappreciated step child.

  6. Hi Christine, I'm glad I got a chuckle out of you. You shouldn't be so cavalier about letting go of the comma—you never know.

  7. Lara gets it! I have been know to put in an extra comma, here and there, myself. The real question now is what are we going to do about the darn exclamation point in the age of social media?

  8. Brynne, virtual hugs are just as good. Besides that, you are known for your "presence."

    All the credit for the post goes to the talented Ashley Barron.

  9. I feel like the Queen of punctuation and not in a good way.I'd always prided myself on my spelling, grammar and punctuation. Since I've been blogging and writing a book, the inner Queen all women possess has emerged and taken over my writing. I can't stop her...she won't take "No more!" for an answer! There should not only be punctuation check in MSWord, there should be a rehab facility for those of us who don't know how to quit!

  10. Marcia, some sharp programmer can make a fortune if she comes up with a punctuation validator. I'd certainly want it in my word processor.

    Creative writing is hard work. In addition to coming up with story ideas and finding just the right words to convey the mood, we also have to be punctuation experts. (What are editors for anyway?)

  11. I do love the excerpt, but that painting is absolutely stunning!

  12. Thank you Ruth! Bouguereau is something else.


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