It is one of the most commonly used elements of the English language – often littered carelessly through reams of text by grammar novices.
But a US academic has suggested that the comma could be abolished as a punctuation mark without causing much of an impact, Slate has reported.
John McWhorter, an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, argued that as a new generation of internet users and even some authors become increasingly liberal in their use of comma it may now be surplus to requirements.
And he suggested that removing the punctuation mark from most modern US texts would result in “little loss of clarity”.
Professor McWhorter also highlighted the comma’s inconsistency as further proof of its growing redundancy. He cited the Oxford comma, which is an optional punctuation mark used before the word “and” at the end of a list.
“Nobody has any reason for [using the Oxford comma] that is scientifically sensible and logical in the sense that we know how hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water,” he said.
“So these things are just fashions and conventions. They change over time.”
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