Quotes for Writers

Eats Shoots and Leaves

When the humorist James Thurber was writing for New Yorker editor Harold Ross in the 1930s and 1940s, the two men often had very strong words about commas. It is pleasant to picture the scene: two hard-drinking alpha males in trilbies smacking a big desk and barking at each other over the niceties of punctuation. According to Thurber’s account of the matter (in The Years with Ross [1959]), Ross’s “clarification complex” tended to run somewhat to the extreme: he seemed to believe there was no limit to the amount of clarification you could achieve if you just kept adding commas. Thurber, by self-appointed virtuous contrast, saw commas as so many upturned chairs unhelpfully hurled down the wide-open corridor of readability. And so they endlessly disagreed. If Ross were to write, “red, white, and blue” with the maximum number of commas, Thurber would defiantly state a preference for “red white and blue” with none at all, on the provocative grounds that “all those commas make the flag seem rained on. They give it a furled look.”

…In the end Thurber simply had to resign himself to Ross’s way of thinking. After all, he was the boss; he signed the checques; and of course he was a brilliant editor, who endearingly admitted once in a letter to H.L. Mencken, “We have carried editing to a very high degree of fussiness here, probably to a point approaching the ultimate. I don’t know how to get it under control.” And so the comma proliferated.

…Why the problem? Why the scope for such differences of opinion? Aren’t there rules for the comma, just as there are rules for the apostrophe? Well, yes; but you will be entertained to discover that there is a significant complication in the case of the comma. More than any other mark, the comma draws our attention to the mixed origins of modern punctuation, and its consequent mingling of two quite distinct functions:

  1. To illuminate the grammar of a sentence
  2. To point up — rather in the manner of musical notation — such literary qualities as rhythm, direction, pitch, tone and flow

This is why grown men have knock-down fights over the comma in editorial offices: because these two roles of punctuation sometimes collide head-on — indeed, where the comma is concerned, they do it all the time.

…On the page, punctuation performs its grammatical function, but in the mind of the reader it does more than that. It tells the reader how to hum the tune.

From Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss, p. 68-71.

So, what are your thoughts on the lowly comma—or punctuation in general? Do you like the Oxford comma or insist it be left out? Do you allow semi-colons into your work? Do you have a fondness for em-dashes? Are you clear on when to use an apostrophe?

Are you laissez-faire when it comes to punctuation, or do you walk around with a red Sharpie correcting the signs in the supermarket that say “Pear’s 1.99/lb”?

P.S. Did you know that “trilbies” are hats? I didn’t—I had to look it up.



Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  8. Kevin Pashuk on August 23, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Let’s eat Grampa!
    Let’s eat, Grampa!

    Commas save lives.

  9. Steve Sorensen on August 23, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    If you like commas, you’ll love the writing of lawyers and researchers. I don’t know whether the place so many commas simply to get the reader to stop and think, or to make themselves look erudite. Either way, they clutter rather than clarify. They do nothing to add cadence or rhythm — rather, they destroy it.

    Another bane of the grammar freak is the use of quotation marks. One supermarket might say “Pear’s 1.99/lb” while another might correctly drop the apostrophe but put the word “Pears” in quotation marks. The first makes me wonder what the pears own. The second makes me wonder what so-called pears are.

  10. Anne Lang Bundy on August 23, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    Yes, I’m a bit late to the conversation, but I couldn’t help joining in to share that if I curb my tendency toward run-on sentences, I struggle less with overusing commas. Few things thrill me more than a well placed em dash—except, perhaps, the hyphenated-to-contain-multiple-words adjective.

  11. Ruth Madison on August 22, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    I like the Oxford comma. It makes things clearer. And yes, I do go around changing grocery store signs (though there are some “rules” I willfully disregard, like opening a sentence with a conjunction). Have you seen the Weird Al video where he corrects a sign in a grocery store? It’s 20 seconds long and fantastic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGWiTvYZR_w

  12. Siri Paulson on August 22, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    I’m a die-hard defender of the Oxford comma. I love dashes, too, but I use semi-colons only where they’re appropriate to the narrative voice. One of my WIPs is set in the 1820s, so semi-colons got scattered about liberally. When I moved on to other stories, it took me a while to retrain myself out of using them!

  13. Gina Burgess on August 22, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Commas can be story flow dams for me because they may not be in the correct place as qualifier or as sentence divider as a semi-colon might be more proper. So I mentally put it in the proper place and unclog the flow. However, if the heroine, dressed as a man because she is an escaping Jacobite, is sword fighting with the villain who is abducting the heiress, who is a mind boggling twitty female, then I probably will skip correcting commas because the story has me hooked.

  14. Michelle DeRusha on August 22, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I admit, I’m a punctuation freak. Just this weekend my husband and I received a wedding invitation addressed to The Johnson’s — we were aghast!

    And the comma OUTSIDE the quotation marks? Egad.

    I used to love the Oxford comma…but my workplace (we use AP Style) has since trained it out of me.

    And the em dash…oh how I love her.

  15. Robin Patchen on August 22, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    It’s the misuse of quotation marks that drives me nuts. The other day I received an email in which the writer referred to me as “Robin”–with the quotes! As if that might not be my real name.

    I’ve always read the comma in lists as “and.” So I read “Red, white, and blue,” as “red and white and and blue.” So I tend to leave it out unless it’s necessary for clarity. However, my critique partner always adds them back in.

  16. Karen on August 22, 2011 at 1:29 AM

    Anyone else have Vampire Weekend running through their head?

    I hate the Oxford Comma. In my PR work, I edit it out with careless abandon. In my fiction, I’m training myself to put back in.

    The most misused punctuation mark in the world has to be the apostrophe though. Just the other day, I changed a poster in my local bank that was promoting a 50’s party. What is so hard about possessive vs. plural and apostrophe as placeholder? Gah!

  17. Kayden Lee on August 21, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    I have to admit I love the comma. Anytime I want a reader to pause, I use a comma. Of course, after editing and re-editing, I tend to wean them out knowing that not everyone loves them like I do.

  18. Kat on August 21, 2011 at 10:45 PM

    Another big fan of the comma here. I must admit I do always squirm whenever I use it after a ‘but’, as I recall a high school English teacher telling me not to do that. Sometimes it just works.

    I used to work with an editor who was obsessed with em-rules, en-rules and dashes, and their appropriate use. Everyone thought he was incredibly annoying (and, in truth, he was) but after a while I began to develop a fondness for the various different lengths of line within text and their uses. There are so many exceptions in the English language, it’s lovely when a rule can be applied consistently!

  19. Matthew Dickens on August 21, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    As Marshall McLuhan wrote in the “Gutenberg Galaxy” (sorry no italics possible) “punctuation is ultimately for the ear (,) not the eye.” This is a book very few Christian writers have even heard of, much less have read. But every writer should read it. Hemingway himself was notorious for his use of Polysyndeton.

    Matthew Dickens (Word Serve client)

    • Rachelle Gardner on August 21, 2011 at 9:06 PM

      Matthew, see my reply to Bethany, above.

      • Matthew Dickens on August 22, 2011 at 9:29 PM

        Rachelle, thank you for the insight on how to italicize. But I am not a net savy person. Email is pretty much all I do. I started my career on a typewriter eighteen years ago. I read your blog mainly to see what’s happening with the agency.

        But thanks all the same.


        • Rachelle Gardner on August 22, 2011 at 10:27 PM

          Matthew, I hear you! I, too, started my career on a typewriter 20-something years ago. It’s been a long hard road from there to here.

          Keep going, learning little by little. You’ll be up-to-date, net savvy and tech savvy before you know it – as long as you don’t fight it too hard!

  20. Catherine Johnson on August 21, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    I’ve got that book, it’s brilliant. I really ought to look at it more often.

  21. Beth MacKinney on August 21, 2011 at 6:03 PM

    Yes, I believe that punctuation is important, and it drives me up a wall when people don’t use it correctly. Further, coming the electronic production arena, I am forever removing double spaces at the ends of writers’ sentences, changing their double hyphens to true em-dashes, and fixing their dot-dot-dots with ellipses that don’t break in the middle of a line.

  22. Sarah Thomas on August 21, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    I cannot STAND the Oxford comma. Utterly unecessary. I delete them wherever I find them. On the other hand, I’m crazy about em-dashes. They somehow seem more intentional than commas. I do use a semi-colon every once in a while. Though most of the time needing one shows me where I really out to have two sentences.

  23. Bethany LeBedz on August 21, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    I love, love, and love “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” and the Oxford comma! I hate that I can’t use italics here; the semicolon occasionally sneaks into my work. The em dash–oh how I love it!

    • Rachelle Gardner on August 21, 2011 at 9:03 PM

      Ah, but you can certainly use italics here – all it takes is a little basic html. Learn it, and you’ll be much more free to express yourself in blog comments! Any idiot, um, intelligent person can do it!

  24. Laura on August 21, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    You’ve stuck a nerve in this writer/English teacher/editor. For me, it’s the serial comma (Oxford comma) all the way. And yes, I carry the Sharpie. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is a favorite of mine.

  25. Shae on August 21, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    It’s a simplistic rule, but I always hear my mom saying, “Periods let the reader take a full breath, and commas let them pause. If you forget commas and periods, the reader will run out of breath completely.” I then pictured the poor reader dropping dead due to asphyxiation.

    Commas, especially Oxford commas, guide the rhythm in my head when I read. In “red, white, and blue”, the colors are spaced evenly and uniformly, making them distinct. Seeing “red, white and blue” makes me read “red, whiteandblue”.

    It’s a little strange, but I figure if a step can be taken to ease any difficulty with the flow of the sentence and improve clarity, why not take it?

  26. Mary K. Johnson on August 21, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    When I was in high school, my teacher wrote this sentence on the board:

    John says the teacher is mistaken about the importance of punctuation.

    She then wrote the sentence again, adding commas and quotation marks, so that it read

    “John,” says the teacher, “is mistaken about the importance of punctuation.”

    We got the message.

  27. Teri Hyrkas on August 21, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Here is a blog entry that addresses a similar grammar problem which had rather far reaching consequences.

    This is somewhat off topic, but one of the funniest books I have ever read in my life was written by James Thurber about Harold Ross. Called “The Years with Ross,” it was originally published in 1957 by Little,Brown and Co. The first time I read it was at work on my lunch break;I was laughing so uncontrollably that it caused great concern among my co-workers. I had to leave it at home from then on. Great book!

  28. Paul on August 21, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    I remember reading somewhere that a manuscript was returned to Winston Churchill by his editor. The editor said that Churchill needed to add some comas. Churchill went through the manuscript putting comas all up and down the margins of each page. He then returned the manuscript to the editor with a note saying, “Here they are. Put them wherever you wish.” Whether that is a true story, I do not known, but I love it.

  29. Heather Hawke on August 21, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    For the second function, commas allow me to subtly add emphasis. That’s a powerful tool I wouldn’t want to give up. For the first function, I only use oxford commas when it is necessary to clarify meaning (as in eats, shoots and leaves).

    But yes, I’ve made myself unpopular pointing out grammatical errors. The typical response to my unsolicited advice is a blank stare.

    Semicolons – rarely. Em-dashes – as here, only in informal communications.

  30. Cathy West on August 21, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    I love this book. in fact, I’m going to have to read it again now. Having been educated under the British system, you can imagine my difficulty adjusting to writing “American English” (that’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) – the day I gave in and switched my spell checker to American English over British English was a sad one indeed. Not only have you botched…er…altered…the spelling of a multitude of words, your punctuation is different too! And then there are ways I might say something that would completely confuse the average American, not to mention the many British colloquialisms that make people stare at me like I’ve sprouted a third eyebrow.
    I’ve enjoyed many an argument with several critique partners over the years, who were kind enough to point out to me that I was doing it all wrong. Thankfully, I had the good sense to realize that if I were ever to stand a chance at publication in the US, I would have to change the way I wrote. I love my commas and em dashes, and I have to admit that sometimes I still stumble (read balk) over things that pass in the US for acceptable English. I suppose that makes me a bit of a literary snob, but it’s hard to change everything you’ve ever learned – a bit like being brought up speaking French and suddenly getting dumped in the middle of Tokyo and told you can only speak Japanese from now on.
    But you do have Starbucks and really cool shopping malls in the US. That counts for something. 🙂

  31. bobbie on August 21, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I use the Oxford comma, or not, depending on pace. It tempts the reader to linger and relish. In headlong scenes it has no place.

    I passionately love the semicolon but try to use it sparingly and never in dialogue.

    Trilbies and fedoras are very similar. So similar, I got bored while Googling the difference 🙂

  32. Megan Stirler on August 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    I used to teach high school science and my students would get so mad at me for adding in the Oxford Comma when their english teachers told them NOT to use it. Drove ME crazy – how else do you clarify compound lists?

    I used to abuse commas in all other contexts until I had a paleontology teacher (who’d edited for the USGS) who cured me with point deductions per comma – I’d never gotten such poor grades for writing assignments.

    • Westley Turner on August 21, 2011 at 2:49 PM

      I’ve heard tell of a class where you pay the professor $5 for each comma you use…then he pays you back $5 for each comma CORRECTLY used. Tends to encourage comma conservation.

  33. Patti Mallett on August 21, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Thanks for this, Rachelle. I read with a sense of relief, never quite sure if the comma that “feels right” to me should actually be there. After reading your post, I’m sure to worry less, and will probably feel more free to leave some of those (many) commas out.

    The book looks good, too, and I’m heading to check it out.
    Thank you!

  34. J M Cornwell on August 21, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Commas have their place and I do use them, mostly when clarifying or placing a pause for reading effect. With my day job, I use the Oxford comma, not so much with my writing, depending on the style, although I’m leaning less toward the AP style and more toward Oxford.

    I thought commas evolved out of Shakespeare’s time in the theatre when actors needed to know when and how long to pause. A beat for a comma and a beat and a half for semi-colons, while periods got a full two beats, or full stop. I use semi-colons when connecting two sentences that are closely related and I feel they should be closer in tone and tempo, and for little else. Colons are a whole different can of worms, or bag of words, if you prefer.

    Enough commas?

  35. Jerry Eckert on August 21, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Commas put the lumps in the Pablum, gives a meter on which to chew, a cadence, and thus meaning. Without them, all you have is, well, … Pablum.

  36. Nancy S. Thompson on August 21, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    As a student of the Carholic school system, I had the use of commas, and all other forms of punctuation, beaten into me. I always thought this was how all schools taught. Now I understand grammar has nearly become a forgotten subject.

    When working with some of my critique partners, I noticed the absence of commas where I would have used them, often liberally. I must say, it bothered me. Without them, the rhythm is improper, and I would sometimes need to restart the sentence to understand its meaning.

    Then there’s the M-dash, which was never taught in any school I ever attended. I learned to use it from my crit partners and love it, though I use it sparingly.

    Perhaps I’m just an old-fashioned girl, but I wish schools still emphasized the proper use of punctuation and grammar.

  37. James Scott Bell on August 21, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Death to semi-colons. http://tinyurl.com/2d83c5q

  38. Matthew Wood on August 21, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    I let my gut lead me. The sharpie comes out when I’m done the actual writing…and just about anywhere else in the world I may go.

  39. Elise Daly Parker on August 21, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Love the quote and have a fondness for the inner workings of the New Yorker. Read a wonderful book about all the characters from Ross’ day in a book called Here At The New Yorker by Brendan Gill.
    Over the years I’ve been production editor, proofreader, copy editor, copywriter, writer…and right now all of the above for a monthly publication. Still commas confound me and I am guilty of making new decisions regarding them often. Not very professional from a strictly grammatical point of view, but they’re such powerful little marks for flow and meaning.

  40. colleen laquay urbaniuk on August 21, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    i use comma’s sparingly and when it feels i may be overusing them i start with the dashes. em, en, hyphens, bars…i seem to love the dashes in life. for added emphasis, to make something stand out, to feel like it counts maybe a bit more. but then i love lowercase writing and the ellipsis and not using full and proper sentences…so i may not be the best person to offer advice on the rules of writing at all.

  41. otin on August 21, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    I,who write sometimes,while not an expert at punctuation, have a tough time, even though it really shouldn’t be that difficult,determining at which point, if any, that a comma, annoying as they may be, should be used. LOLOL!

    • Rachelle Gardner on August 21, 2011 at 8:54 PM

      You, are really – seriously – cracking, me up. LOL.

  42. Joe Pote on August 21, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    I have had to retrain myself in the use of commas. I was taught, in school, to use commas much more often than they are normally used today.

    For example, I was taught to always set off a prepositional phrase with commas, but that is not the hard-and-fast rule it once was.

    I have to keep going back to the rule, “when in doubt leave them out.”

  43. Normandie Fischer on August 21, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    I noticed that you referenced this book and had to stop by to applaud. I prod writers toward this (and toward Strunk and White) in my Cheat Sheet for submission to Wayside Press. Thank you for making this delightful book known to more people.

    When we were out cruising, I used to read sections aloud to my husband just for the fun of it. Isn’t humor one of the best ways to teach?

  44. Peter DeHaan on August 21, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    Since the comments have deviated from merely discussing the comma, here are my thoughts on all punctuation:

    Comma: I use them more then I should and always before “and” when three of more items are in a list.

    Period: I am compelled to place two spaces after periods at the end of sentences. When not ending a sentence, I tend to leave them out, as in PhD.

    Question mark: I question if this sentence needs a question mark? (not really, but I do occasionally stumble over this)

    Exclamation point: Except for here, I never use them in groups!!! I do, however, tend to overuse them, especially in emails!

    Quote: Except for semi-colons, I put the punctuation inside quotes.

    Colon: Being untrained in such matters: the use of colons is largely a mystery to me. I pop them in when it feels right and my proofread fixes them.

    Semi-colon: I am in love with semi-colons; I tend to over use them; it sometimes borders on the ridiculous.

    Apostrophe: Many notice writers use them when they aren’t warranted or stick them in the wrong place.

    Hyphen: My tendency is to insert them where a space is needed and to remove them (without adding a space) where they are required. I think I am just ahead of my time.

    Dash: I may use dashes too much. I always use the en-dash, while dismissing the em-dash.

    Ellipsis: This is a great tool with writing dialogue or making sense of a wordy quote, but other uses strike me as sloppy writing.

    Parentheses: I tend to add parenthetical sentences (and thoughts) way too often.

    Brackets: This is a great device to insert editorial comments. [Other than that, I know of no other use.]

    Braces: Braces are lovely in appearance and elegant in design, yet I can recall no time when I have ever used them.

    • Rachelle Gardner on August 21, 2011 at 8:53 PM

      Wow – that’s a VERY comprehensive review, thank you!

  45. Susan Fuchtman on August 21, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    I tend to leave out commas if doing so doesn’t affect readability.

    And yes, fie on all those signs that have apostrophes where they don’t belong!

  46. Jay on August 21, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    Just because of the book title I think I should read it.

    Count me as a hearty Oxford comma supporter.

  47. Jackie Ley on August 21, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    Definitely a fully paid up member of the grammar police, even though one of my sons regularly points out, ‘Mum, nobody cares!’

  48. Jeffo on August 21, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    I tend to use the Oxford comma. I don’t remember if I was taught to use it or not, but my sentences seem wrong without it. Big-time ‘yes’ for semi-colons and em dashes, too.

    “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” is a great book. Loved it.

  49. Lisa Jordan on August 21, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    I had an addiction with punctuation until my copy editor staged an intervention. I had to let go of my dependence on the Oxford comma because my publishing house doesn’t use it unless it is needed for clarity. Em dashes and ellipses are a part of my subconscious, but now I use them in moderation.

  50. Jillybean on August 21, 2011 at 4:11 AM

    I’m an em-dash addict. I don’t think I overuse commas, although I’m a devout user of the Oxford. Apostrophes are a piece o’ cake.

    My sins are an overdose of semicolons and sentences that run longer than standard. However, nobody’s complained (yet), so I think I’m in the clear — for now. [g]

  51. Addy Rae on August 21, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    I’m just not that attached to my punctuation, and it’s very rare that I will argue with someone about it.

    My phrasing, however, I’ll defend tooth and nail. You can move as many commas as you like or even remove them, but if you argue about my phrasing I’ll be irritated. Example: ‘You don’t have to be doing that.’ You can add punctuation anywhere you like to this, and I’ll be content, but I won’t be shifting things around very much. 🙂

  52. Brooke on August 21, 2011 at 2:28 AM

    I had grand plans of having a silly blog with photos of errant apostrophes. Never did get around to that. I figure I waste enough of my life getting irked by them without stopping to take photos.

    I’m crazy about em dashes and ellipses. I know I use them way too often. As for commas, I agree with the music notation. In Australia, we weren’t taught to use the Oxford comma in school, but it seems more common over here. I’m a convert since reading something about a will being split the wrong way because of the lack of an Oxford comma between names two and three. It’s probably an urban legend, but it sticks in my mind.

  53. Nancy Kimball on August 21, 2011 at 2:22 AM

    Once I learned how beautifully an em dash functioned, I put it up there with the exclamation point. Something wonderful I should use very, very sparingly.

    Regarding the exclamation point, I hate to see this outside of dialogue, and even then, if it’s absolutely necessary, that feeling stays with me to the last page and every one I see I pop out of the story to evaluate whether or not I would have used it there.

  54. joan Cimyotte on August 21, 2011 at 2:01 AM

    I’ve been going through my story taking out unnecessary commas. I think I have a tendency to use them too much. It is true that it makes for choppy reading. I also seem to use “and” too much. It reads better when there are two sentences rather than one.

  55. Jess Lawson on August 21, 2011 at 1:57 AM

    I agree with the reference to musical notation. To me, using commas is up to the author in terms of the rhythm they want to convey (assuming the punctuation is used deliberately). It’s like phrases in music that have subtle pauses or increases in volume. The pace should increase or rest a beat or subside or boom, etc. As writers, we don’t have the audio power that music does. We rely on punctuation to make our intended voice clear.

  56. Natalie on August 21, 2011 at 1:43 AM

    I love them all. Commas, em dashes, semi-colons… Ellipses. Beautiful, every single one.

  57. Jo Eberhardt on August 21, 2011 at 1:28 AM

    I love the Oxford comma. I love it so much, I should possibly marry it. Mind you, I love commas in general. My writing is littered with them — anywhere I want a pause for emphasis, there’s a comma. Or a semi-colon. Or, on occasion, an em dash.

    Much of my excess punctuation gets edited out, but I always like to point out that none of it is actually *wrong*. Just… slightly excessive.

  58. Kate Larkindale on August 21, 2011 at 1:24 AM

    The misuse of the apostrophe on signs is one of the things that irks me no end. I am constantly walking down public streets, licking the end of my thumb and rubbing errant apostrophes off merchants’ chalk-written signs…

  59. Tiffany Willis on August 21, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    I feel a very urgent need to correct grammar on public signs. It started at a young age.

  60. Karen deBlieck on August 21, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    Commas and I have a tumultuous relationship. I just finished reading this book a week ago and it was very reassuring to know that there were still arguments over the proper use of them…I’m not going crazy!! I like my semi colons but I do use them sparingly. I also use em-dashes but tend to edit them out eventually. I wish I could wield the red Sharpie more effectively. I am trying to learn more about punctuation but it is a long process.

  61. Stephanie McGee on August 21, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the road in my course of public education the Oxford comma got drummed into my head. I struggle to leave it out. (Thank goodness the magazine I interned for had their own style guide which called for the use of said comma.)

    The one I struggle with the most is the change from needing two spaces after a sentence’s end to only needing one. I was just formatting my book for submission and had to do find and replace on my spaces because I just can’t train myself out of the two space habit.

    I don’t go to the extreme of defacing signs, much as I might really want to, but I am one of those people who would given the right motive and a lack of consequence for it.

  62. Donna K. Weaver on August 21, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    Isn’t that great? Commas. I say pick a grammar comma style and be consistent. Whoever ends up editing your project will have their own opinion anyway.

  63. Martha on August 21, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    I love my commas! And I should have been an editor for all the correcting (in my head) of other people’s writings.