Adding a comma between the subject and predicate, is inadvisable

November 1, 2017

In his classic short book on punctuation, Mind the Stop, G.V. Carey says of the comma: ‘The writer who handles this puny little stop correctly and sensibly can probably punctuate as well as need be.’ My work as a copy-editor generally bears this out, but such proficiency is unusual. It’s a tricky mark to master.

One of the first things we learn implicitly about commas is that they’re not normally used between a subject and predicate: Jane cycles, not *Jane, cycles. They may, of course, be needed in pair form if the subject is followed by an appositive phrase (Jane, a city girl, cycles) or a non-restrictive clause (Jane, who is a city girl, cycles).

Jane, cycles is perhaps a misleading example in that the subject is short and simple, and such a mistake would be unlikely from a native-English speaker with basic education. Lengthen or complicate the subject, though, and commas begin to materialise.

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Treason’s Harbour (a book spine poem)

October 4, 2013

I’m a day late for National Poetry Day, so this post can serve to suggest its year-round continuation in practice – even for elliptical found poems assembled from book spines. Click to enlarge:

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stan carey - book spine poem - treason's harbour

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Treason’s Harbour

Explorations of the marvellous
Mazes and labyrinths by salt water:
Treason’s harbour.
Quarantine the sleepwalkers,
The Sufis, the inheritors,
Nothing happens in Carmincross.

Thanks to the authors and editors: Peter Nicholls, W. H. Matthews, Angela Bourke, Patrick O’Brian, Jim Crace, Arthur Koestler, Idries Shah, William Golding, and Benedict Kiely.

More book spine poems, aka bookmashes, in the archives. I see the Lakeside Theatre at University of Essex is having a bookmash contest for tickets to a radio writing workshop (it links to mine for illustration). Good luck to the entrants!