Blog Post

Comma confusion

A few weeks ago, I bought a lovely book about typography: ‘Type Matters!’ by Jim Williams.

It’s a great sourcebook for information about type design, partly because it builds every point around clear examples. The examples are mostly statements about typography, set in different ways so that readers can see the difference that typographic variation can make.

There’s one statement in the book that I just can’t get my head around, and it’s all about the placement of the comma.

Williams writes:

Typefaces are clothes for words and like a finely tailored suit, it’s the detail in their composition that adds interest.

Williams uses it to explain inter-character spacing and line-feed adjustment, but for me it’s the comma that’s more interesting.

I could choose to see this as a comma splice, which would lead me to read it:

Typefaces are clothes for words and like a finely tailored suit; it’s the detail in their composition that adds interest.

Or, I could choose to see it as missing a comma to identify the modifier, which would lead me to read it:

Typefaces are clothes for words and, like a finely tailored suit, it’s the detail in their composition that adds interest.

Either way, the original needs revision. The two options give a slightly different meaning and, while my preference is for the latter option, only the original author can know which was intended.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail