The Compulsive Copyeditor

February 11, 2010

A Rule Is to Break . . .

Filed under: punctuation — amba12 @ 7:39 pm

. . . as long you do it as well as Gertrude Stein:

And what does a comma do, a comma does nothing but make easy a thing that if you like it enough is easy enough without the comma. A long complicated sentence should force itself upon you, make you know yourself knowing it and the comma, well at the most a comma is a poor period that lets you stop and take a breath but if you want to take a breath you ought to know yourself that you want to take a breath. It is not like stopping altogether has something to do with going on, but taking a breath well you are always taking a breath and why emphasize one breath rather than another breath. Anyway that is the way I felt about it and I felt that about it very very strongly. And so I almost never used a comma. The longer, the more complicated the sentence the greater the number of the same kinds of words I had following one after another, the more the very more I had of them the more I felt the passionate need of their taking care of themselves by themselves and not helping them, and thereby enfeebling them by putting in a comma.

So that is the way I felt about punctuation in prose, in poetry it is a little different but more so …

(from Lectures in America)

That should awaken you from your comma . . .

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1 Comment »

  1. For some reason when I saw the post title, I saw Monroe singing “A kiss on the hand…”. Must replace brain chemicals every 20,000 ideas I guess or dry rot sets in.

    Comment by Ron — February 11, 2010 @ 8:48 pm | Reply


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