by Barbara McNichol
At times, strict punctuation rules can be relaxed, especially
when writing artistic pieces. Even in the absence of rhyme or
reason where commas are placed, however, consistency must
Unconventional punctuation can create confusion in meaning.
If authors don’t struggle a bit with when to use commas, they
may be forcing readers to struggle with “getting” what they
mean. That’s when relying on the rules takes priority over artistic
A fascinating article from a New York Times columnist adroitly
addresses the correct use of a comma.
I encourage you to read this article and learn from a master, Ben Yagoda.
I’m impressed with how well Yagoda’s examples explain the tricky
rules for using commas. For example:
I went to see the movie, “Midnight in Paris” with my
Comma after “movie,” comma after “friend” and, sometimes,
comma after “Paris” as well. None are correct — unless
“Midnight in Paris” is the only movie in the world and
Jessie is the writer’s only friend. Otherwise, the
punctuation should be:
I went to see the movie “Midnight in Paris” with my friend
If that seems wrong or weird or anything short of clearly
right, bear with me a minute and take a look at another
I went to see Woody Allen’s latest movie, “Midnight in
Paris,” with my oldest friend, Jessie.
Do you see how the correct punctuation set up clarity in
the meaning? Subtle but important distinctions.
How important is it for you to follow strict punctuation
rules in your writing? Please share your comments here.