Comma Conundrum

by | Oct 18, 2017

I read an article about a gentleman who said “Yes” to teaching a Sunday school class, but quickly realized he didn’t like it. At all.

Although he hated disappointing his pastor, it was time to fess up. The minister helped find a better ‘fit’ for his parishioner, and Jim moved happily – and successfully – in a different direction.

Thaaat’s not right …

The article, though, addressed the conversation this way:

“One day after talking with his pastor, Jim realized
he didn’t have the gift of teaching.”

Well … no. The idea of teaching being a gift may have been a new concept, but Jim was well aware he didn’t like standing in front of a classroom. That didn’t magically occur to him the day after he talked with his minister.

The sentence should have read (with the added comma):

“One day, after talking with his pastor, Jim realized …”

There’s that whole ‘dependent clause’ thing going on here. Remember those? (Oops. Sorry. Did your eyes just glaze over?)

Although it’s tiny, a comma can be important.

What did the original say, really?

In the original, it appears:

  • Jim was flummoxed (love that word) and confused.
  • The next day, he miraculously realized he shouldn’t be teaching.

The missing comma doesn’t make a huge difference in this case. The earth certainly won’t stop spinning if someone misinterprets the original sentence.

However, much like one of those ‘yippy’ dogs (teeny, but a big … ahem … voice), a comma – or lack thereof – can speak volumes.

Hmmm. You know what? There’s a whole new post for me to write!

Your Takeaway: Don’t negate the importance of a comma. This is one place the ‘other pair of eyes’ comes in handy. We usually won’t catch these problems on our own.

Final Note: I often find myself misusing commas (if that makes you feel better). They’re easy to mess up, whether there are too many – or too few. My suggestion? Have someone else read our documents before we mark them as complete (because that person will usually spot our comma issues).

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1 Comment

  1. Kathie York

    Thanks for stopping by, Robert. This is a post a lot of people keep handy.
    Glad I could help!


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Kathie York, CSQE
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