Be Careful with That Comma

I am an admitted logophile. Even though I design logos professionally, the word “logophile” has but little to do with logos, as in the design you see at the top of business stationery. The dictionary defines it simply as a “word lover or word buff.” Logo is Greek for word, and phile means friend or lover. So, it makes sense.Eat Grandma Cartoon

Words, placed in the right order, make sentences. Do enough of these correctly and it makes a letter, or a story, or a book. But, almost any document with the right words. placed in the right order, may not make sense if it were not for punctuation. I don’t know if there is a word for someone who is a punctuation buff. Maybe “punctuphile?” I don’t think so. Anyway, I don’t want to be called that. I will stick with “logophile.”

There have been dozens of books written about punctuation, the little marks we put between words. A favorite of mine is, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Trusse. It is not only an educational work, but very fun to read. Hilarious in places. Consider the title. On the back cover, Lynn explains by use of anecdote:

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots into the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says. “Look it up.”

The waiter does so, and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Remove the comma and it reads as it should: “Eats shoots and leaves.”

We will revisit this topic of punctuation again. It’s more interesting than a long green lady’s sweater. Or a 26 inch boy’s bike.

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