Comma: Has it been underrated?

“The older I grow, the less important the comma becomes. Let the reader catch his own breath.” — Elizabeth Clarkson Zwart

Hello everyone, I am the Mr. Comma, which you use while writing any document such as magazines, journals, user manuals, and so on. I have been used differently by various authors, and not only this, different cultures use me in an entirely different fashion. That’s the irony of a poor little me that I have been used in various number of ways in so may people’s writings. Sometimes, I wonder that where did I originate from, and who was my godfather?

How did comma originate?

I am the most commonly used punctuation mark used by several writers around the globe, and I have a similar shape of my fellow-mate ‘apostrophe’ and ‘single closing quotation mark’. As per Oxford English dictionary, I came from a Greek word called komma (κόμμα), which means something that is cut off or a short clause.

However, my origination can be dated back to third century BC when Aristophanes of Byzantium invented a system of single dots also called distinctiones that separated verses and indicated the amount of breath needed to complete each fragment of text when reading aloud. As I mentioned earlier and want to repeat it again that I can be used to solve various purposes while writing any form of document. I can be used in separating the list items or I can be used to separate the clauses. For example, generally, in English language people use me to separate a dependent clause with the independent clause if the dependent clause comes first. In addition to this, I may also be used while enclosing the parenthetical words and phrases within a sentence. Let us take an example to illustrate this. A simple example to this will be, Once upon a time, there existed a Shalom dynasty.

I may also be used while separating the different adjectives within a sentence or to separate parts of geographical references, such as city and state or city and country. Thus, I can be used in numerous ways and the sky is the limit. Yet, I am used differently in different cultures.

Let us understand few such differences in the following section in the widely used English such as American as well British English.

Differences between American and British usage

Comma, though seems a simple punctuation mark, but is used differently in both the American as British English. For instance, comma is placed inside the quotes when using American English while it is placed outside the quotes in the British English.

So, to conclude …

Finally, I am the most wisely-used character, and I can be found in all the bestsellers of well-known authors. But, still, I am not known to everyone.

References

3 thoughts on “Comma: Has it been underrated?

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