Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Asynchronous Conversation About the Comma with Lloyd E. Smith

4. The Comma (excerpted from Punctuation Self Taught, Little Blue Book #683 by Lloyd E. Smith, Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1924)

Lloyd: "The little comma is the worst of all marks of punctuation to keep in its proper place."
(SP: I like to use a whip and a chair, Lloyd, you?)

Lloyd: "Don't sprinkle commas about as though you were distributing them from a careless pepper-shaker!"
(SP: This feels like a personal attack, Lloyd. So: I, will, if, I, want, to, Lloyd,)

Lloyd: "Law suits have--rarely, but still often enough to be a warning--been won or lost on the position of a single comma."
(SP: Oh, really. Scare tactics, Lloyd? I thought you were better than that.)

Lloyd: "Words (usually nouns or adjectives, but often other parts of speech and even phrases or clauses) strung together in a series are separated from each other by commas."
(SP: You are about to give me an example, aren't you, Lloyd? I smell an example coming.)

Lloyd: "But be our experience in particulars what it may, no man ever forgot the visitations of that power to his heart and brain, which created all things new; which was the dawn in him of music, poetry and art; which made the face of nature radiant with purple light; the morning and the night varied enchantments; when a single tone of one voice could make the heart beat, and the most trivial circumstances associated with one form, is put in the amber of memory; when we became all eye when one was present, and all memory when one was gone; when the youth becomes a watcher of windows, and studious of a glove, a veil, a ribbon, or the wheels of a carriage; when no place is too solitary, and none too silent for him who has richer company and sweeter conversation in his new thoughts, than any old friends, though best and purest, can give him; for, the figures, the motions, the words of the beloved object are not like other images written in water, but, as Plutarch said, 'enameled in fire,' and make the study of midnight." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

(SP: ?, ?, ?, and ?!)

(SP: Llllllloyd! What the heck? I thought you were going to give me an example such as "apples, pears, and peaches." This? You give the beginner a paragraph like this--without saying "Don't try this at home?" You distress me, Lloyd!!!)

Lloyd: "Doubling or tripling the exclamation point is an outgrowth of its overuse, an ungrammatical attempt to restore the potency the single mark once had, and still has in conservative writing."

(SP: I am beginning to dislike you, Lloyd.)