Friday, August 24, 2007

Editorial Comma Dummies


The Problem Isn’t Mr. Maliki

Published: August 24, 2007

Blaming the prime minister of Iraq, rather than the president of the United States, for the spectacular failure of American policy, is cynical politics, pure and simple.

What simpleton wrote this? Every one of the commas is wrong. “Rather…United States” is a restrictive prepositional phrase. The commas after “States…policy” cuts off another restrictive prepositional phrase.

If you must use the cliché hiccough “pure and simple,” don’t cut it off with a comma: it’s awful, but it’s restrictive.

One would think newspapers who save newsprint by omitting the standard last comma in items in a series would forgo the plethora of redundant commas that festoon every paragraph in the paper with the editorials leading the redundant-comma daily orgy. But no, doing so would require hauling out your grammar primer and reviewing the chapter on redundant commas instead of strolling hither and yon preening that you are big important editors of the New York Times. That you are comma illiterates you don’t mind.


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