Why, suddenly, do people hate the comma? Did one go astray, leaving someone candidly exposed? Did an em-dash make someone choke on an appositive? Did an apostrophe try to possess the wrong thing?
Fear not, punctuation marks, I will defend you. You are full of character. You accentuate. You applaud! You provide context.
Where would we be without you? Lost, confused, disorganized, and a bit troubled, I suspect. Let’s take a look, shall we?
“I like eating, the smell of summer rain, and my pets.”
Without the commas: “I like eating the smell of summer rain and my pets.”
I beg your pardon?
The semi-colon need not perplex; rather, it gives pause. It aids contemplation. We don’t pause enough in our rapid world. Thank you, semicolon, for reminding us to breathe.
Colons create drama and suspense: they are the orchestra leaders of the English language. When you see one, you know something big is coming next, like a crescendo of fact or a list of reasons.
And there’s the em-dash, that lively and vibrant storyteller, giving us hints and peeks, like an actor turning to the camera and winking. Some people dislike them—thinking them vain or disruptive, perhaps—but I think they’re dandy, like a conspiratorial sideways glance.
Exclamation marks have never been more popular, often used in an attempt to be heard over the din of voluminous content that saturates our existence. But even they are losing their spark due to overuse. We might as well just go back to the period.
People. Like. To. Use. Periods. Like. This. For. Emphasis. Such a method works well on occasion, particularly for irony. Periods cut to the chase and draw conclusions. They pace our words and clarify meaning.
It’s the lowly comma, sadly, that appears to be most at risk of an untimely death. I, for one, still love what it can do.