Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This week I have been mostly watching cricket and thinking about punctuation

I know I may sometimes give the impression of believing that punctuation is a waste of time; but nothing could be further from the truth. And watching the World Cup on TV reminded me that a while ago I came across two examples of commas serving a useful purpose, both of which oddly related to injured cricketers:

Gough hopes to be fit in time for the Ashes. "I want to play badly," he says.

Vaughan, said Fletcher, was progressing steadily.

In the first, of course, there should be a comma after "play" - unless Darren Gough was actually hoping to turn in a sub-standard performance, which seems unlikely.

In the second, which is perfectly correct, removing the commas would reverse the meaning of the sentence: Vaughan would be reporting on Fletcher's progress.

And it also occurs to me that, although spoken rather than written, the greatest ever cricketing misunderstanding could be said to have resulted from a missing comma. Put a comma after "Holding", and it's hardly funny at all:

The batsman's Holding the bowler's Willey.