Do, you, like, to, use, commas, as, if, they, are, running, out, of, style? I don’t like commas and I avoid them.
My students, on the other hand, as well as many amateur authors, use commas as if they were free by the bushelful and need to be crammed into every bramble and sigh. I never add a comma before an “and” though many people employ a comma there.
Here’s why: I was taught — by the great poet, editor, friend and Pulitzer Prize winner Karl Shapiro — to only use minimal punctuation and only when it was urgently required for clarification.
Karl used to say to me: “A comma before ‘and’ is repetitive because the ‘and’ is already serving the separating role of the comma.”
“Commas are not stitches in corset,” Karl would also tell me.
“Commas are bonnets and if your sentence is wearing more than one you risk looking silly.”
Karl’s writing was about brevity and clarity and condensation of belief all while churning up deep and complicated emotional and intellectual reactions in his readers.
I have used Karl Shapiro’s sage words over the last three decades to redirect me to safer and cleaner writing when I sometimes become lost in the land of commas and semi-colons and the overwrought metaphor.
Grammar is an interesting beast. You must learn and master its rules.
Then, like the great James Joyce before us, you can sometimes withdraw from Grammar’s restraints and provide newer meaning and extended definition by challenging readers to insert and re-semanticize what was purposefully left out.