The comma isn’t a metaphor for life, but if you give me a few minutes, I might be able to make one up…
Recently I met an English teacher who was looking at some of my writing, and she commented that I seemed to be missing commas in several places that could use them. I think that was her nice way of saying I have a problem with the comma, but I was happy for the feedback. Plus she’s cute, so, any conversation was a good thing.
This critique is nothing new to me as, over the years, several editors and a couple wannabe writers have told me the same thing, and you know what? They’re right. I do tend to leave out commas in places I should put them.
This is the point in the blog post where you’re probably thinking, “He tricked us into some friggin grammar lesson. I’m outta here.”
I assure you this is not a grammar lesson and implore you to stick around to laugh a bit and to see what life lesson I came up with regarding the humble comma.
The purpose of a comma is to slow us down as we read so that we don’t keep going at a fast pace where we might miss something important. I guess you could call it the yellow light of punctuation. A period gets all the glory because it’s both the red light and the green light, in that it tells you to stop and once you’ve looked at the page to make sure it’s safe to cross over to the next sentence, you can go.
Just as the yellow light is necessary to avoid accidents, the comma is there to avoid misunderstandings, like the one I had with a cop about fifteen years ago.
I was cruising along when I hit a light that was clearly yellow. After safely clearing the intersection, red and blue lights suddenly flashed in my rear view mirror and I knew I was busted. The officer came up to my window and asked if I knew why he pulled me over. Me, being a smartass/dumbass, said, “Because it was yellow and you thought it was red?”
He said that it was something like that and gave me a ticket and sent me on my “merry” way. Not sure how merry someone can be at having to pay $55 bucks (or whatever it was) because a cop was colorblind, but lesson learned.
As far as punctuation goes, comma’s are ok. I mean, they’re no octothorpe’s (#) or anything, but they’re still pretty cool. Actually, I don’t like the # as much as I like the word “Octothorpe.” Go figure.
As promised, with the help of coffee and a couple pop tarts, I came up with a life metaphor for the comma. Are you ready to be metaphysically blown away at the wisdom you’re about to receive? Are you sitting down? Those with a heart condition may want to consult their doctor before reading this shocking revelation, because it just may be that good.
In life, we tend to rush through things without smelling the proverbial roses. I know I do. Of course, I have ADD, so I have the ability to rush through life a little faster than others, but I do my best to slow down.
Two weeks ago to the day I moved from Long Beach to rural-ish Missouri. I say “ish” because my town has 4,400 residents and is next to a city of over 10,000 with a city of 167,000 forty-five minutes away.
Still, nature abounds around me, and this is definitely small town America, which, after being raised in The OC (Orange County) and living a good chunk of my life in the LBC (Long Beach, CA–home of Snoop Dogg and Sublime), I love the slower pace of where I am.
If there were commas in our daily life, they would remind us that there are moments that we need to pause to catch our breath before moving on.
That’s the function of the comma in writing, to get us to slow down for just a moment so we can catch our breath before moving on. This helps us read and understand things more clearly and avoids confusion.
I know that I could use a daily dose of commas in my life to remind me to slow down and look at things before jumping headfirst into the next task at hand.
In my ‘hood, mailboxes are old school. They’re on posts and they sit on the street so that the mail carrier can drive around in their right handed Jeep and deliver mail. When I moved in mine was rusted and nasty, so yesterday I painted it a bright blue. No one in my ‘hood has a bright blue mailbox, but then again, no one in the whole friggin area has a purple goatee.
After painting it yesterday, this morning I rushed out to put the numbers on the box as well as my name. I was in such a rush to do this so that I could come in and start writing, that I failed to notice the box was covered in dew and that the stickers wouldn’t stick. That was a moment I could have used a comma because now I have to go back to the hardware store and get another “R” for my mailbox.
So here’s my metaphor. We all need commas in our daily life to help us slow down and see things before rushing off to the next task. I’m doing my best to add more commas in my writing and also doing my best to use more metaphorical commas as I go about my life,
I challenge you to try and pause in your life to see things and not always have your life be a run on sentence. No one likes that. It’s confusing and annoying and who needs more of that? Not me.
Want to know what your favorite punctuation says about you? Take a peek at this humorous article I found.
P.S. According to this, I’m definitely a question mark with a little asterisk thrown in for good measure.