Quietly powerful comma…
Pawn of the punctuation game, workhorse of sentences everywhere – it’s easy to take the humble common-or-garden comma for granted.
Its everyday uses are amply explored in Strunk and White’s timeless The Elements of Style. But there’s magic in this humble mark, too. I came across two examples of its quietly powerful ability to steer our thoughts and feelings in Albert Camus’ short and sweet as a fig The Sea Close By (currently on sale for a mere 199 of your pennies):
“But above all,* there is the silence of summer evenings. Those brief moments when day topples into night must be peopled with secret signs and summonses… I imagine its twilights as promises of happiness. On the hills above the city there are paths among the mastics and olive-trees. And towards them my heart turns at such moments. I see flights of black birds rise against the green horizon. In the sky suddenly divested of its sun something relaxes…”
*This comma tugs you back gently before toppling you into the brilliantly vivid depiction of Algiers in evening.
“Almost immediately afterwards appears the first star that had been taking shape and consistency in the depth of the sky. And then suddenly, all consuming,* night.”
*This comma wraps you up in the experience, rather than the description, of night.
So praise is due the comma, the unsung hero of communication.