Commas, And Other Editing Issues

March 26th, 2008 by Potato

I never met a punctuation mark I didn’t like, and while I have made it my personal mission — indeed, the very purpose of my blogging career — to bring back the emdash and its misunderstood cousin, the semicolon… and mmm… ellipsis… though the comma is perhaps my very favourite piece of punctuation; maybe it was all those typing classes repeating “I’m King Comma” ad nauseum, or perhaps simply its use for adding small pauses to cadence which I use and abuse to mimic my halting style of oration. So you can imagine that I am in general in favour of the “serial comma”, currently a source of discussion over at John Scalzi’s blog “Whatever” (though I’m also in favour of using the ampersand {&} within a list to unambiguously identify compound elements, even though many editors seem to cringe at the “informal” character). I suppose that makes me evil, but it’s not the only thing.

I packed a variety of sandwiches: ham, tuna, and peanut butter & jam. {deliciously evil}
I packed a variety of sandwiches: ham, tuna, and peanut butter and jam.
I packed a variety of sandwiches: ham, tuna and peanut butter and jam.

Of course, I’m not nearly enough of a language geek to actually engage in any kind of debate like this, and had to look up what a serial comma was (though I do instinctively use them even if I don’t know what they’re called). These sorts of posts by authors are interesting to me moreso for the insight into the world of professional publishing. I’ve had my share of experience from both sides of the editing/reviewing processes in scientific journals, and it generally hasn’t gone very well for me. I tend to take editorial comments too personally (especially “this would not be of general interest to our audience”), and often have a really hard time making changes to my manuscripts. So it’s healthy to see that real live successful authors also get edited (and I’m going to remember “stet”).

This also reminded me of a broker report (for Q9) I read recently that included an interrobang in the title (“Trading Below Replacement Value?! Upping to ACTION LIST”). I mentioned this to Wayfare, in part because we both own a bit of Q9, and we’re both down quite a bit on it. She hadn’t heard of an interrobang before, and it instantly became both her new favourite punctuation mark as well as her word of the day.

One Response to “Commas, And Other Editing Issues”

  1. Wayfare (who finds it surprisingly hard to use the word "interrobang" in conversation) Says:

    Who would think the first or third option were correct?!

    Obviouisly, it’s this one:
    I packed a variety of sandwiches: ham, tuna, and peanut butter and jam.