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  • Writer's pictureLisa Safran

Serial (Comma) Killer

Someone has a serious Napoleon complex. With the swagger shape of some puny punk leaning against a brick wall in an alleyway, this bully says, "yeah, go ahead. I dare you."

The comma.

It makes us, even those rare self-professed I'm good with commas people, feel confused, inadequate, and dumb. (Wait, confused, inadequate and dumb.) Personally, I've had it. Hey, comma! You listening? You're just a fleck of lint on my computer screen, an eyelash that I blew a wish on (I wish you'd go away). Have you noticed how insignificant you look on the keyboard? You're a freakin' smudge with a curl. The period is smaller than you and does she make everyone suffer because of it? I, think, not. Yeah, that's right. I threw you in there a lot. Like how it feels? Now, you're, confused, too,,,, right?

It's not bad enough that you boggle the world with your presence, but you also create rules on top of rules that very few of us can follow. Case in point: the serial comma, which of course also has to get a second and third name, the Oxford comma and the Harvard comma, because you're all that. If I use it, I'm all proper and British-like, therefore, I'm so smart. Ooh, look at me. If I choose not to use it, then what am I? Lazy? Improper? Hey, maybe I'm a minimalist. Ever consider that one? Maybe I'm decisive. Maybe I just don't like you floating around my text all the time when you're not needed.

A wise editor at Merriam-Webster sheds light on the serial comma confusion! (Bless her soul.)

So, here's where I stand on you, serial comma. I am a serial comma killer. I choose to carve you out unless you are needed to avoid confusion with a list of things, or if a client insists because it's their house style. One less dot of ink to stress over means more time and space for gratitude for what got me here in the first place: my parents, curiosity and creativity. (Yes, those are their names.)

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