>Lamentation for the Comma


Oh, comma! Dear friend, connector of clauses, I am ridding my writing of you!

Ernest Hemingway and many other writers before him recognized that commas are burdensome. Sometimes they are necessary, but other times they are burdensome. When you are using conditional statements it helps to use the comma. But, as this sentence demonstrates, the commas could be omitted entirely for stronger writing.
Read out loud: “Once he had pulled the tail around with one hand until he could reach a horn with the other and when the bull had lifted his head to charge him he had run backwards, circling with the bull, holding the tail in one hand and the horn in the other until the crowd had swarmed onto the bull with their knives and stabbed him,” For Whom the Bell Tolls, 365.

That one clause, surrounded by commas, is enough pause to give the reader in this long sentence. Extra commas can be burdensome and heavy to a reader, though at times clarifying.  I will still use the comma but not in the way I have done when I was younger. Get rid of the commas before the ‘buts’ and the ‘ands.’ This will make for stronger writing. Only include them if there is another clause after the clause beginning with ‘and’ or ‘but,’ I tell myself. Then you, Daniel Adler, will write like a Hemingway in post postmodernism

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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