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comma - The Sad Fate Of the Comma I HAVE ALWAYS LIKED...

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The Sad Fate Of the Comma I HAVE ALWAYS LIKED COMMAS, BUT I SEEM TO BE in a shrinking minority. The comma is in retreat, though it is not yet extinct. In text messages and e-mails, commas appear infrequently, and then often by accident (someone hits the wrong key). Even on the printed page, commas are dwindling. Many standard uses from my childhood (after, for example, an introductory prepositional phrase) have become optional or, worse, have been ditched. If all this involved only grammar, I might let it lie. But the comma's sad fate is, I think, a metaphor for something larger: how we deal with the frantic, can't-wait-a-minute nature of modem life. The comma is, after all, a small sign that flashes PAUSE. It tells the reader to slow down, think a bit, and then move on. We don't have time for that. No pauses allowed. In this sense, the comma's fading popularity is also social commentary. It is true that Americans have always been in a hurry. In "Democracy in America" (1840), Alexis de Tocqueville has a famous passage noting the "feverish ardor" with which Americans pursue ma- terial gains and private pleasures. What's distinctive about our era, I think, is that new technologies and astonishing prosperity give us the chance to slacken the pace. Perish the thought. In some ways,
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