As someone who likes a minimalist aesthetic, I tend to use commas as minimally as possible. Don’t want to muddy up the page with extra marks. Although I will fight to the death for the Oxford comma. Commas in a series aside, I often forget the “rules” for using a comma anyway. I tend to play it by ear.
This morning I started reading Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, a collection of tiny essays about…delights. Anyway, I read this sentence, “Next to that house butterflies dapple the hedge of buddleia, their wings listing in the moist Indiana heat.” Maybe it was the unfamiliar vocabulary, maybe it was because I was tired, but I had to read that sentence a few times until I understood it. Next to that house (pause) butterflies dapple the hedge of buddleia… Ah, a comma would’ve really helped me out there. But I did delight in that sentence–the picture it painted, the precise words chosen, the syntax used. It made me wonder if at times a comma is purposely omitted to force the reader to read over and over to get it right.
And maybe I need to remember this wondering when I’m reading students’ writing and delight in the rereading of their words.