Once upon a time in a land called Punctuation, the Village Editor discovered an innocent little mark that she named Comma.
The editor slipped Comma into a sentence and found that it could magically create a pause after an introductory phrase.
How useful! she thought.
She dropped Comma between equal adjectives and found that Comma took the place of And.
Comma could separate attribution from quotes, ages from names, cities from states.
“Oh, Comma,” the Village Editor said, “you have become Essential.”
So the Village Editor introduced Comma to “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Comma immediately made it Non-Essential, leaving only the play to be performed at the village center.
Just the play.
The Village Editor didn’t notice. She liked Comma and thought Comma so Essential that it should go wherever it wanted.
So she introduced Comma to “Why Do Humans Migrate,” not noticing that the great force Typo had already chased away Question Mark. Once Comma showed up, the lack of Question Mark didn’t matter much anyway, because the humans and the migration all but vanished behind a Non-Essential screen.
“Why Do Humans Migrate” became the conference. Just the conference.
Again, the Village Editor didn’t notice. Blinded by Comma’s allure, she even allowed Comma to turn “Zombieland” Non-Essential.
It became the film. Just the film. (Poor zombies.)
As you can imagine, the Villagers in the land of Punctuation soon grew weary of showing up at events and finding only the play, the conference, the film. They demanded that the Village Editor explain her proclivity toward generic events. They demanded that she bring Comma under control.
“But Comma is Essential,” the Village Editor said.
The Lead Villager shook his head. “Comma is indeed useful,” he said, “but Comma creates only the Non-Essential, those elements that can be removed without changing the meaning.”
The Village Editor sighed. She decided that she and the Villagers needed to talk more about Comma and other problems in Punctuation, so she suggested that they meet for lunch. She pointed to an ad for a local restaurant and suggested that they all try the Iron Grilled Sandwiches.
“Maybe we should talk about Hyphens first,” the Lead Villager said.