Last week, a client questioned my use of a comma, which I explained was as a visual pause and an indicator of a change of thought, not a serial comma (as in “red, white, and blue,” where the comma after “white” is not necessary). It seems these visual clues are fading in popularity, or maybe it’s a generational difference.
Freelancer Kathy Kehrli at Screw You! points to a Newsweek Business article by Robert Samuelson about the sad fate of the comma, which suggests why. The gist of his article is that we all have too much to do, and not enough time to do it, so if we can save a few seconds a day by curtailing commas, why not?
“But the comma’s sad fate is, I think, a metaphor for something larger: how we deal with the frantic, can’t-wait-a-minute nature of modern life. The comma is, after all, a small sign that flashes PAUSE. It tells the reader to slow down, think a bit, and then move on. We don’t have time for that. No pauses allowed. In this sense, the comma’s fading popularity is also social commentary.”
Sad but true.