Thursday, May 07, 2009

Serial Comma Wars, Continued

As some of you know, a blog post here in January 2007 caused quite a stir. Weird that my post about the serial comma set off a minor storm -- and continues to be the most popular reason visitors come to my blog.

Now the lofty Columbia Journalism Review jumps into the fray with a piece titled "Serial Killer" and subtitled "Why the 'serial comma' isn't important." Not that a slight aroma of condescension bothers me. Much. The essay, by a Merrill Perlman, is a paltry defense of, what?, ambiguity?, or maybe is a passionless defense of apathy toward something that is, yes, less important than Mideast peace. But. It is a wishy-washy polemic, missing the simple point that opponents of the serial comma just can't allow themselves to admit: if you use the serial comma, you can't go wrong, you can't be unclear. Well, they do sheepishly admit that. They do begrudgingly admit that occasions call for use of the serial comma. Sometimes. Sort of. But we don't have to declare it as a universal rule. (Look, I understand this is all about stylistic preference and that it is beyond the realm of hard-and-fast rules. I get that. But style guides have no point if they do not profess preferences, and they profess them for a reason. Or should.)

In response to my post at the Columbia Journalism Review, Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, who declares herself "a big fan of 'no serial commas,' nevertheless provides her favorite argument in favor of the serial comma by way of the "classic book dedication":

"To my parents, Ayn Rand and God."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I love it. I had not heard that one and of course it is essentially a cousin of the example I like to quote from the folks at The Chicago Manual of Style:

"With gratitude to my parents, Mother Teresa and the pope."

Sit on the sidelines no longer.

Fight the good fight.

Join the brigades.

Become a commando in the Serial Comma War.

Be a Serial Commakazie.


Patti said...

Both had interesting sets of parents..haha. Not sure which is funnier.

Leni Schwendinger said...

Dear Mr. Kokonuts,

I am a happy, new reader interested in your views on the hyphen. Although I agree with your comment on email rather than e-mail in the February 19, 2008 entry, I believe there are times when a hyphen is preferable, and that the contraction of nouns these days is altogether overly used.

There has been lively discussion of the little hyphen-between-nouns here at home and at the studio, wondering if it is really a VISUAL issue.

Your thoughts?


Pawlie Kokonuts said...

All due respect, I don't feel it is a visual issue; it's a logic and orderliness issue. How stuffy of me! Of course, from your perspective, the visual DOES create order and logic all its own (and beauty).

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Pawlie Kokonuts said...

these robotic anon. notes be mad crazy!