Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Confessions of a Frustrated Editor

Sometimes after editing and proofreading manuscript after manuscript, time after time, it all runs together and the pesky punctuation rules get jumbled in my mind. I recently ran across a poem I penned a long time ago, apparently in a moment of frustration.

by Janet Muirhead Hill

Commas are such pesky things,
They sometimes get me down.
When editing I must scrutinize
Every adverb, verb, and noun.

Commas pop up everywhere
In places they shouldn't be,
And in places where they're needed,
The line is comma-free.

The manuals piled on my desk
With pages of comma rules
Sometimes seem inadequate,
So I look for online tools.

And when I'm sure I have them down,
Each rule I apply,
Until a sentence doesn't seem to fit
Any rule. Then I cry.

The rules are there, however opaque,
And we must have commas for clarity's sake
But to avoid insanity, I find I must take
This rule to avoid a worse mistake:

When you can't find a sample,
This rule is ample:
"When in doubt, leave it out!"