I was talking on my facebook status the other day about how, at least in informal conversation, we seem to be dropping the commas that used to set off a person’s name when he or she is addressed. For instance, Bob, why don’t you use commas like you once did? On Facebook commas for this purpose seem to have completely disappeared.
Instead of “Happy Birthday, Bob,” people say, “Happy Birthday Bob!” Without that comma the sentence ceases to be a sentence, and reads instead like some strange title given to a man named Bob, who is either having a happy birthday himself, or who perhaps delights in wishing a happy birthday to others. Does this make me a grammar nazi?
Please understand, I am aware of the fact that I make many typographical errors and grammatical omissions, but not every time I write a sentence. I generally remember and use the rules correctly most of the time. Even in casual chat and phone texting, while I don’t always bother with proper punctuation, or even capitalization, I do tend to keep reverting to it, and not simply out of habit, but often for the sake of clarity as well.
I don’t think it’s important to be a grammatical stickler outside of formal writing. I’m not convinced that abbreviations in text messages are “ruining the English language,” anymore than shorthand did when secretaries used it as an aid in dictation.
But the almost exclusive lack of this comma, friends, at least in casual writing, begs the question, is this rule no longer being taught? Or has our language started to shift and leave it behind? I am not sure if this question has been addressed in Eats, Shoots and Leaves, but I think I’m going to dig further into this. Do you see commas used properly in memos at work, or formal letters, or is it just a text/internet thing?
I am not a prescriptive grammarian, and I understand that language evolves, but it can be puzzling when it degrades to the point of losing clarity. Coincidentally the same day that I was getting 56 comments on Facebook about the lowly comma, my boy Micah was posting on his blog about certain word choices that when taken to the extreme greatly reduce clarity, while increasing the humor quotient. I like that he illustrated this with a poetic experiment. I found it delightful. Please check it out, and then click follow and like on his blog if you enjoyed it.
- Comma clusters and texting style (stancarey.wordpress.com)
- About Writing on Wednesdays: I’m Confused, Where’s That Comma Go Again? (curiocat.wordpress.com)
- Commantary (economist.com)
- APW: The Comma (aplaceforwriters.wordpress.com)
- The Most Comma Mistakes (3quarksdaily.com)
- Does grammar matter anymore? (LOL) (cbsnews.com)
- What does this guy have to do with the comma? He invented it (girlwiththepen1118.wordpress.com)