Sunday, 28 November 2010

Cry the Beloved Comma

Commas can be overdone, especially when they are scattered through prose haphazardly, like raisins in muesli. On the other hand, they can remove ambiguity or simply act as a breathing post for a reader plodding through a long sentence.

In this excerpt from an article in the Australian Financial Review on 25 November, for example, a comma after companies would remove the faint suggestion that the agreements were made to bolster the corporate regulator's case, which is not what the writer intended:
In this excerpt from Paul Kelly's article in the Australian on 24th November, on the other hand, a comma would not alter the reader's perception of meaning. However, if one were inserted before "with", it would, in my view make the sentence a lot easier to follow:
In this last case, however, also from Kelly's article, a comma is absolutely necessary before "with", if you do not want "rhetoric and policies geared to its southeastern base" to be linked to "nation" rather than to "Labor":

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