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02 August 2012

Comma corruption starts early

There’s an outrage in my son's reading book.

'I am going to get some nuts, today,' said Mother Bear. (Beverley Randell. Baby Bear Climbs a Tree: Story Books Level 9, p4.)

That comma after 'nuts' is completely unnecessary. It's not a serial comma. It's not a comma between clauses. It's just plain wrong.

They're already filling my son’s head with dangerous nonsense, poor mite, and he's only in Year 1. We were doing our reading at home last night, and when he got to 'nuts' he gravely told me, 'I've got to take a breath now.'

Passed between generations
This travesty is being passed from one generation to another. I remember as if it were yesterday. I was in Primer 1, and kind Mrs Purdey was teaching us about punctuation. 'Put a comma wherever you want to take a breath,' she said.

Some of us breathe more often than others, and Beverley Randell must have been for a jog before she wrote about Mother Bear. Commas are there to separate clauses, to separate introductory phrases, and to separate items in a list. And that's it.

A nail in the coffin
Put commas elsewhere, and there you have it - the rot sets in: another nail in the coffin of correct punctuation in the 21st century. The correctly used comma will go the way of the apostrophe.

And he’s only age five! It's a tragedy.

(PS: Aside from the comma, this is one of the nicest books my son has brought home. Grammar isn’t everything! We just don’t want it to get in the way of a good story.)

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