In his essay “In Praise of the Humble Comma” Pico Iyer writers “The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the same could be said – could it not – of the humble comma.”
Punctuation is like sheet music, he writes, “telling us where to rest, or when to raise our voices; it acknowledges that the meaning of our discourse, as of any symphonic composition, lies not in the units but in the pauses, the pacing and the phrasing.”
I love this! Punctuation is to words as notation is to music, adding accent to notes, indicating where the crescendo should go, inserting a cheerful allegro non troppo, a slow-paced adiago, a strong fortissimo or a pulsing vibrato.
You get the idea.
The humble comma the most used – and misused – mark of punctuation. Read Iyer’s piece for a better idea of how to access its superpowers. It has the potential to turn our writing into song.