If I Were 22: I’d Lay Off the Commas

If I were 22 again, I would have been better at my first real job—a community newspaper copy editor. Sure, I knew AP Style well enough, but I remember adding superfluous commas and editing mistakes into the copy. I was the last set of eyes before the paper went to bed, and I was drunk on power and punctuation.

To be fair, those mistakes were something no ordinary person would recognize. Only journalists know about the tricky closed quotation mark at the end of a long quote that continues into a new paragraph. And we still get that wrong. AP created that rule simply to trick people I think. Let me demonstrate.

“If I were 22 again, I wouldn’t have made dumb mistakes that could have been avoided by reading the AP Style book a little closer. Just one pass of that page in the stylebook would have been all it took to stop making that mistake for the next 3 years of my career, when I finally figured out what I’d been doing wrong.
“You see how I left off the quotes at the end of ‘wrong’? That’s the right way to do it.”

I guess everything worked out alright. I finally got my chance as a cub reporter covering cops and courts in my Dallas suburb, and worked my way up until I launched the company’s newest weekly publication. I was editor-in-chief of the largest circulation paper there at age 26. … At age 22, I really liked commas. Now at age 33, I like em dashes—like that one right there. Until I find out I’m using those wrong. For my own sake,–please, don’t tell me I’ve used my punctuation—wrong.

#IfIWere22 originally published on LinkedIn.com.



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