Comma is a definitely confusing punctuation. I use them spuriously and occasionally indiscriminately.
Originally posted on Sentence first:
From a Guardian editorial of 14 November:
There is another lesson to the Petraeus affair. The former general fashioned for himself a role, which is much more significant than top generals have during wars. [screengrab]
Readers may briefly infer that what is “much more significant” is not a role but Petraeus’s fashioning a role for himself, or they may infer that top generals don’t normally have a role during wars. And then they’ll realise they’ve miscued because of a rogue comma.
The article should read “a role which [or that] is much more significant”. The clause led by which is restrictive, so there should be no comma before it.* Adding one makes the clause non-restrictive and obscures the antecedent – what the relative pronoun which refers to.
The ambiguity is quickly resolved, but it ought never to have arisen. Readers are being made to work unnecessarily for…
View original 378 more words