The Times, March 12, 2022

This is a good example of the misuse of a comma which has changed the meaning of the sentence and made it incorrect. The first World Cup was in 1930 but the comma makes it look as if it was in 1970.

This is part of my Style Matters entry:

If you are describing one individual, you would need commas in a sentence such as ‘The Queen, who visited Canterbury yesterday, was greeted by . . .’ [That would be the right format if you were talking about the first World Cup in 1930, ie one event.] However if you are describing one of several individuals, you should not use commas, eg ‘the sub-editor who changed that copy is a genius’. [This is the format you want in this example, where you are picking out one event from several.]


Also from Style Matters: Commas are occasionally needed to make a meaning clear, as in ‘I would like to thank my parents, the Queen, and Prince Philip’. If you miss out a comma, you get ‘I would like to thank my parents, the Queen and Prince Philip’, which is not quite the same thing. Another example given when an American academic suggested that the comma was redundant was ‘Mrs Smith gets pleasure from eating her family and pets.’


4 thoughts on “#554”

  1. The grammatical distinction is between defining and non-defining relative clauses. What was needed here was the former, not the latter. Compare: “The man who was wearning a red hat …” with “The man, who was wearing a red hat, …” The second type of clause adds incidental information; the first defines which man is concerned (and in that sense is one of several individuals). This is one of the cases where punctuation is truly grammatical.

  2. Seen in the “Lancaster Guardian” as a headline in the local news section

    Dr Sakthi Karunanithi
    Lancashire Covid infection rates sore by 80%

    I thought Covid was a touch sore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.