Comma Fails From People Who Should Know Better

Exhibit A, posted on LinkedIn by a copywriter and editor:

My husband, John Blank and I are relocating to Canada in April.

Without a comma after John Blank (the name has been changed to protect the guilty by association), this means the writer is moving with an unnamed husband and this other dude, John Blank.

What is probably meant is that our copywriter is moving with one husband, whose name is (for our purposes) John Blank, and him alone.

There needs to be a comma after the husband’s name to indicate that we’re not dealing with a throuple (unless that is the case).

Exhibit B, from no less a source than the Financial Times:

The writer, Jose Luis Borges, once likened …

This is the opposite problem; those limiting commas offsetting the name of the writer indicate that he is the only writer.

The following sentences, while perhaps intially confusing, are punctuationally pure (remembering that smith is both a noun and a verb):

Will smith Will Smith smith?

              Smith Will Smith will smith.

The FT should dispense with the Borges commas and adopt the Will Smith approach, unless it seeks to reduce world literature to a single author.

Maybe they were using the copywriter/editor from LinkedIn…


Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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