Friday, December 3, 2010

The Toofer Controversy

The English language changes slightly about every five years. Sometimes, it’s a change in words and at others a change in punctuation or usage. Today, writing in general has been heavily influenced by chatting, texting, and messages on social network sites like Twitter.

Over the last five years, a controversy has arisen about punctuation and the word “too.” Throughout my schooling and my writing career, I always placed a comma before the word “too” when I used it at the end of a sentence.

A few months back I was revising a book of mine–How to Start a Home-Based Antiques Business–when I discovered that all the commas preceding the word “too” had disappeared in the current edition. I asked my editor about them, and she was as baffled as I. So in the revised edition, I replaced all those commas. I have yet to see the published new edition, so I don’t know if the commas mysteriously disappeared again.

Several months later, I noticed those same commas missing in the stories written by some of my creative writing students. This seemed to be more than a chance coincidence, so I did some checking.

It seems that at the moment I, as a writer, have the choice of whether to place a comma before the word “too.” Unlike other English usage practices, this is the only incidence in which I have a choice. So what’s the difference? If I place a comma before the word “too,” it implies that the sentence provides additional information. In this instance, I could substitute the word “also.” But if I delete the comma before the word “too,” the sentence lacks the emphasis I want. And writing is all about emphasis.

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