I Wouldn’t Trust This Guy

If you think that I pick on educators and editors, you’re right. I believe they should be held accountable for maintaining a high standard. This includes knowing and using standard English conventions. As related to this blog, educators and editors should know when to use commas.

Trust in Educators and Editors

Educators: I often hear the term sacred trust in regard to education. Educators are responsible for modeling standard English conventions and for instructing others. Students gain correct or incorrect knowledge from educators, so educators have a great influence on what students know and are able to do. If the educators don’t know when to use commas, or if they use them incorrectly, how will the students ever learn?

Editors: People trust editors to know and understand the “rules” of correct writing. Editors need to honor this trust so that their clients are not deceived into thinking that their documents are correct when, in fact, they are not. Do editors ever make mistakes? Yes, of course. (You’re always welcome to point out mine.) But those mistakes need to be the exception and not the norm. If editors don’t know how to use commas, how will they help their clients communicate well?

I Wouldn’t Trust This Guy

With that in mind, I found two descriptions of editing services by Elemein that caused me to shake my head in dismay. Both listings have obvious comma errors.

The first listing is here: http://fiverr.com/users/elemein/gigs/edit-any-storyessaytext-etc

Do you see the comma error? The listing states, “I am offering my fast, and easy editing service….” That comma is incorrect.

Perhaps the editor (and I’m using that term loosely) is trying to follow Zen Comma Rule P: Place a comma between coordinate adjectives. The problem is the word and. If the editor had written “…my fast, easy editing service,” then the listing would be correct. However, the editor used and between the terms, making the comma unnecessary.

The second listing is here: http://fiverr.com/users/elemein/gigs/write-testimonials-articles-or-reviews-of-things

This comma error is buried in the listing, but it’s a biggie. The listing states, “I will do a testimonial, article, or review on/of mostly anything, just send me a PM….” The editor is joining two independent clauses with only a comma, thus creating a comma splice. (I will give him a thumbs-up for using the serial comma.)

The first independent clause is “I will do a testimonial, article, or review on/of mostly anything.” (We’ll ignore the mis-use of mostly and the odd on/of.) The second independent clause starts with “just send me a PM.”

You can join two independent clauses (complete sentences) with a comma plus a conjunction. This follows Zen Comma Rule D: Put a comma before a coordinating conjunction that joins two independent clauses. What you can’t do, however, is use only the comma. If this editor didn’t want to use a conjunction after the comma, he could have used a semicolon or a colon, or he could have made two separate sentences.

Overall, this editor doesn’t seem to know how to use commas. Perhaps he is just sloppy, which is another reason not to trust him.

Why This Bothers Me

This person claims to be an editor. He claims to know something, such as when to use commas, that he doesn’t. Some people will trust him and pay for his services, and he will let them down. If they read his listings and decide to hire him, they will not get what they paid for. Sure, they will only pay 5 bucks, but that’s not the point. The point is that he will abuse their trust.

Trust for the Writer

Correct comma use increases readers’ trust. Faulty comma use damages trust.

If you know the rules for commas, your reader will be more likely to undertand and trust you. If you don’t know the rules for commas, your reader will be less likely to understand and trust you. As a writer, you want your reader to understand the ideas you are trying to communicate, and you want your reader to trust that you have the credentials to provide correct information. In short, you need to use commas correctly.

I don’t trust this guy because he doesn’t know how to use commas correctly.

Need help with commas? Get Zen Comma, an instructive reference guide on the 17 major uses and misuses of commas, available in PDF and Kindle formats. Read more about Zen Comma.

Your Writing Companion: Our e-book with samples from each of our writing guides: Get the free e-book (PDF, 45 pages) or purchase the Kindle version ($0.99).


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  1. #1 by e6n1 on July 22, 2011 - 12:27 pm

    “Woman without her man is a savage.”
    “Woman! Without her, man is a savage.”

    All hail the power of punctuation!

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