My Comma, My Problem

Something happened when I turned thirty-six. No, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream didn’t immediately show up on my thighs ten minutes after I ate it. That happened when I turned thirty (and I’m still a little upset about it). For some inexplicable reason, during my thirty-sixth year comma usage became an enigma. As an English teacher, this is a huge problem! One day I could write a blog such as this and have commas placed perfectly throughout. The next day I had a run-on the size and incomprehensibility the likes of which you have never seen! It is like the comma disappeared from my radar or something. Oh I will throw one in here and there to make it look good but I am missing some pretty important commas in my writing these days and it is beginning to worry me.

It raises several questions: Why did this happen? Have I gotten so wrapped up in this instant-gratification, fast-food-drive-through-service, sixty-five-on-the-highway, text-in-an-instant, follow-me-on-twitter society that I now unconsciously skip over anything that might give me pause? Is it just me or do others suffer from this as well? As a society, do we have our cross-hairs set on this small, useful form of punctuation because the rules for its use keep changing on us? Is it possible for a society to kill off a form of punctuation much like a horror movie monster slays the buxom blonde in high heels? Will other punctuation become a problem as I get older? All of a sudden, when I hit forty will the question mark lose its purpose?

I don’t know if the problem is my own or just a reflection of a much larger societal issue. But doesn’t it always seem to start with the small stuff? Lose the comma, lose our ability to slow down and enjoy the little things. Is something so insignificant capable of becoming so significant it could change the way a group of people thinks? Or maybe I just need a good grammar refresher course.

About M. Jaynes

A female educator with anger-management issues, M. Jaynes is causing change in the world by inspiring (some may say forcing) young minds to think for themselves and question everything.


  1. Let me tell you, commas are always a bitch. They never get easier to figure out… constant problem with most writers!

  2. I’m a comma minimalist, except for the love/hate relationship I have with the serial comma. I love how it improves readability. I hate putting in what feels like unnecessary punctuation. I could probably fund a grammar therapist’s vacation to the Maldives with that internal dialog.

  3. Eric Bahle says

    I’ve gone back and forth over the years. Too many commas for a spell…then not a one in sight. Mostly I just put them where I feel like it when I’m writing and worry about the formal stuff on revision.

    Revision is code for giving it to Scott and following his edits!

  4. Tim Giron says

    Have you heard the song “Oxford Comma” by Vampire Weekend?

  5. Sharon Greenfield says

    I’ve always been comma happy, so it amuses me this post. And the Vampire Weekend song is catchy. I love Oxford comma’s though, so they can right scram off.

    I will say this: linguists and psychologists are studying this right now. Not only has our language changed verbally in this 20th century information era (gag me with a spoon), but our written language has also changed (i can haz cheezburger?) Much of this is due to inherent constraints set by both on and offline software – so as our constraints change, so does our way of communicating through language.

  6. I’m pretty sure I’ve mastered the comma. Problem is, I think I’ve mastered how it was used in the Eisenhower era. I’m a punctuational anachronism.

  7. M. Jaynes says

    Seems the comma is the slippery snake of English language rules. I’m glad I’m not alone!
    While it is frustrating that the usage rules change constantly I guess it is proof the language is alive and thriving. I remember feeling really upset when I learned a long time ago that a language can actually die.