Comma Drama: How to Be Confused

If you’re anything like me, deciding when to use a comma can be confusing. For one, depending on which style guide you use, the rules change. I have a terrible tendency to overuse commas simply because they look like the top portion of a yin-yang, which reminds me to stay balanced. This, however, probably annoys readers who know far more about proper comma usage than I do, so I decided to look further into this matter only to find myself far more confused than I was at the start. I’ve written a letter to the comma that I’d like to share.

Dear Comma,
I find you very confusing. In trying to understand you better, I found myself even more confused. I am not giving up on you, but here are the rules that made me feel less inclined to rely on your support.

Confusing Rule #1:
Commas are used to separate the elements in a series. However, deciding whether to add a comma before the word “and” is pretty arbitrary. To do so is fine, but not necessary.

Confusing Rule #2: Commas are used with a conjunction to connect two independent clauses, but are not necessary. So, I can use you before the conjunction but if I don’t want to, it’s all good?

Confusing Rule #3: Though not mandatory, commas are used to set off introductory elements. It may not be the case, but it’s beginning to seem like you commas are pretty random.

Confusing Rule #4: Commas are used to set off parenthetical elements that aren’t actually necessary. I am especially confused by you now, Comma. It seems that you are usually unnecessary, and I have no clue when I must use you or can leave you out completely.

Confusing Rule #5: Commas are used to separate coordinate adjectives. It’s fine to write little old lady but not mind-boggling confusing commas. Likewise, it’s not okay to write little, old lady but okay to write mind-boggling, confusing commas.

Confusing Rule #6: Commas are used to avoid confusion. It’s strange that the source of so much confusion is designed to avoid confusion. As if I weren’t confused enough already, I now learn that the comma was supposed to keep this from happening to me.

In summary, Comma, all I know for sure is to use you pretty much when I feel like it or when I need a little reminder to stay balanced. I also know to never refer to little old ladies using you as it’s likely to confuse them. If you have time to respond, I would like to know if you played any part in making up these rules. Could you possibly be as complicated as you seem? Thanks, in advance, for taking the time to read my letter. I hope to hear from you soon.

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