In AP’s Malaysia Air tweet, a comma changes everything

And now this moment to reflect on those making the arguments that commas aren’t all that important anymore.

  • John

    Commas matter.

    We’re eating, Uncle Frank.
    We’re eating Uncle Frank.

    (I prefer to use the Oxford comma in my lists too. It provides clarification in complicated sentence structure.)

  • Chris B. Critter

    I agree that properly-placed commas are important (and I’m a fan of the Oxford, or serial, comma) , but perhaps an illustration of where the commas should have been placed would be useful. Perhaps this is what should have been tweeted:

    BREAKING: Dutch military plane, carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash, lands in Eindhoven.

    It’s a poorly-written tweet, with or without commas.

    • John

      I decided not to comment on the quality of the tweet overall, because I had considered that it may well have been written by someone who is not a native speaker of English.

      If it was, you’re right. If it wasn’t, then I’m willing to let it slide.

      • Chris B. Critter

        Good point, John: I hadn’t thought of its being written by someone for whom English is not their first language.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I don’t see anywhere where a comma would clarify this tweet. When you know that crash-landed would be hyphenated you can’t read it the way most people did. That aside, it could have been written better. Just as the good construction can eliminate the need for a redundant Oxford comma punctuation.

    • Um… “BREAKING: Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash lands in Eindhoven.” suggests that this new flight, with the bodies, crash landed in Eindhoven. Not that the Dutch military plane carrying bodies, from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash, lands in Eindhoven. See how the two commas clarifies the sentence?

  • Jack

    Oxford comma – never knew that is what it is called. I just remember learning proper punctuation from my English teacher, Mrs. Doris Boyce. Loved those punctuation packets that we did, probably still have them somewhere in a box.