Ok, I will be the first to admit that I have a comma addiction. If there were a group called CAA (Comma Abusers Anonymous) I would be their founding member.
I love my little happy marks of pausing. Little precious demarcations of a moment of thought, or breath, or at least a chance to keep confusing bits from smashing into each other and creating a giant mess. (“Let’s eat, Grandpa.” verses “Let’s eat Grandpa.”.)
Now to be fair, commas are pretty free flowing, hippies of the grammar world if you will, there are a few hard and fast rules, but a large portion of regular comma usage is personal judgment. Don’t believe me? Try looking in two or more grammar books ;).
However, as of late, one of my most beloved common uses for a comma has been falling to the wayside. Nay, some publishers have gone so far as to remove this comma completely during their editing process!
It’s the serial comma. That one that used to be there so that you knew if you were having apples, oranges, and bananas (separate and unique pieces of fruit). As opposed to apples, and a bowl that combined oranges and bananas such as what is indicated to me by, “apples, oranges and bananas”.
The beginning of the end for this most beloved little comma started with journalistic writing. Magazines, journals, and newspapers kicked this comma to the curb long ago. But academic and literary writing hung onto it. And I always made sure I had them. To me they just make things more tidy.
But more and more my commas are being taken away. I’m reading novels where the serial comma has been removed on all occasions!
I know at some point I’ll run against an editor who makes me remove my own serial commas, but they can pry them out of my cold dead keyboard.