Open Mouth…Insert Foot: The Need for Verbal Commas!

Open Mouth…Insert Foot: The Need for Verbal Commas!

 Failing to pause can get you in all kinds of trouble. In a recent email correspondence that involved six other people, I failed to place a comma in a sentence. It was one of those times when it totally changed the meaning of the sentence! It was actually quite amusing, but I should have paused with a comma. My failure to do so was picked up on immediately by my witty friends. Thankfully world peace was not at stake, or my overlooked pause could have caused all kinds of grief and havoc.

It occurs to me that failing to pause in verbal interactions with people can also get you into all kinds of trouble. Thoughtful pauses end up functioning like a comma in a sentence. The same train of thought continues, but there is a well placed break. When the mouth keeps running, communication fails.

Such verbal commas force us to stop long enough to think before we continue to say more. I had a very pleasant visit today with the assistant, who works for my dentist. We were discussing mutual acquaintances in the community, and I caught myself nearly saying too much about a particular person both of us know. It would not have been a breach of confidentiality, but it would have fallen under the category of gossip. It was one of the rare occasions that I actually employed a verbal comma, and thus paused just long enough for me to keep my foot out of my mouth.

I wonder how many misunderstandings could be averted, if we would simply use some verbal commas on occasion. In other words, choose to pause just long enough to let the mind process fully before speaking. As it is, we tend to speak 120 words per minute with gusts up to 150. Commas tend to be noticeably absent.

I am going to proof my emails and comments on facebook much more carefully now. I am always glad to be a source of humor to my friends, but one of these days a missing comma is going to get me in lots trouble! I believe that to be the case in writing and in verbal communication as well!

2 thoughts on “Open Mouth…Insert Foot: The Need for Verbal Commas!

  1. 1 Middle Man says:

    Good thoughts, John. I have thought about this quite a bit since I have been blogging, texting. It is easy to skip punctuation, or change it. I don't know if there is some subtle unconscious code for "modern writing," but I find myself using ellipses and dashes just as often as commas, which may or may not be proper…but it certainly does give "pause" to thoughts… 🙂 Blessings, Don

  2. DrKnox says:

    Very insightful, Don! I actually think what you are describing is worthy material for another post. I too have become extremely careless. My mother had a double major in English and French is college. She would flip, if she were alive today and saw how we butcher the English language via texting, email, etc!

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