The Editor Who Loved Commas

I have unfortunately lost a long letter sent me by a professor of English in London, whose specialty is punctuation. He queried 12 or 15 commas in 12 or 15 different New Yorker pieces, finding them “unnecessary and disturbing.” From one casual of mine he picked this sentence: “After dinner, the men moved into the living room.” I explained to the professor that this was Harold Ross’s way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up. There must, as we know, be a comma after every move, made by men, on this earth.

John Duncan Miller, formerly the Times of London man in Washington, said, “The biography of Harold Ross should be called ‘The Century of the Comma Man.'”

—From the book Collecting Himself: James Thurber on Writing and Writers, Humor and Himself, published by Harper & Row.

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