Staples and Commas


Several Months ago I tried to work my way, with an open mind, through a book on language that espouses loosening and ignoring the rules of grammar and punctuation. It is now buried so deeply I cannot find it; probably deleted. I am more likely to read “The Memorable Works of Socretes” by Xenephon than that one.

My teachers at Linsly Military Institute taught us English the right way, by pounding it into our skulls, and by taking off 20 points for a “comma splice”. Reading the three books on English language by the venerable Edwin Newman “hopefully” cemented in me a respect for language. (That “hopefully” is an inside joke; hope you got it.)

As for my comment on staples below, an office striving to become “paperless” must abhor staples. Our 7 scanners certainly do. Here is my morning’s memo to staff:


I received documents yesterday stapled. Please throw away our stapler.

I keep getting documents with “said”; not, “Burt said don’t use “said””, but “said” when “the”, “that”, “their”, or “those” have the same meaning. “Said” means, “I am a lawyer, and I am an idiot.” “The” of course, means the!


I keep getting documents:


a.      Containing compound sentences with no comma; “The boy ran and the girl sang.” Occasionally, “The boy ran, and sang.” (ouch!)

b.      With a series, “The boy, ran, jumped, yelled and hopped” with the last required comma in the series missing.

c.      I keep getting thing like this. “I like the boy running.”, when a possessive is required, “I like the boy’s running.” There are better examples, but I have caught it and corrected hundreds of times.

d.      I keep getting “sprinkled” commas. Commas placed where no rule requires them. “Joe and Fred, were walking through the woods.” Or, of course, “The Panda eats, shoots, and leaves.” Who does he shoot? And where does he go?

e.      I still get “comma splices”, that is, two sentences spliced together by a comma, and sometimes by nothing. I could go on, and usually do.


To paraphrase the song, “These are a few of my (least) favorite things.”



This post was written by Burton Hunter

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