In Praise of the Humble Comma

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In Pico Iyer’s essay “In Praise of The Humble Comma” examples, and comparisons to God, are used to convey to the audience the necessity for punctuation in the written language. The necessity can be broken down into two different needs, the first being the grammatical need, and the other being the emotional need, which will be discussed later. In the beginning of the essay Iyer compares the comma to the gods because they can both “give breath and take it away” (1). The gods are said to have created the world and all of the living creatures on it, including man. As a part of man’s creation we were given breath in order to live, and as part of life, it is taken away-death. Iyer then returns to his subject, the comma, which he states “it be breath itself” (1). The comma is the written representation of the short pauses, the quick little breaths, which are taken when people speak. Since the comma represents breath, it gives breath when used, and takes it away when it isn’t. Such an abstract idea may seem illogical, but it has validity. Without the comma, every compound, complex, and compound- complex sentence would become too complicated to understand. The reader wouldn’t be able to find the purpose of a written work, and therefore would lose interest. So in a way it could be said that the comma is holding the written language together, constituting why Iyer wrote his essay on it. Iyer uses several examples, both direct and indirect, to further illustrate the importance of the comma and to allow his audience to truly grasp just how important the comma actually is to writing. He directly compares the comma to “a labor of love” (9) which can “let us hear a voice break or a heart” (9). A labor of love is when one does something tedious and time consuming for another because they are very important to them and they love them. Writers go through all the rules of grammar, and apply them to their work because they care about their audience. It is tedious work for them, but...
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