How Changes in Writing Style Wreak Havoc with Press Releases

Why Choices Concerning Brevity and Punctuation Are Not Simply Style Decisions

Over the last few years (and traditionally in higher-end literature), it's become somewhat common to use a comma in place of and at times. One might write, "The man, a character who was sturdy, full of life, ran toward the forest."

No argument from me. Whether to use and depends on style and whether the prose makes sense to readers. But there's a reason for not using a comma in place of and on a regular basis—commas are used for certain phrases in English that can create a dual meaning that does confuse readers, especially when striving to reduce character count. Case in point:

​Looks good, except that this could mean many things, none of which are clearly defined:

  • Perhaps the comma is a substitute for and, in which case the press release above is letting us know that this children's book author is a hooker and an OK author. 
  • Maybe the author is both a hooker and an "OK" (decent but not great) author. 
  • Another likely scenario (the correct one) is that the author is from Hooker, Oklahoma.
  • A comma following "OK" would have helped dramatically if the publication was really that opposed to spelling out the word Oklahoma. 

The Associated Press Stylebook recommends spelling out state names, and the foregoing is undoubtedly one reason why. That's especially true for those that can be misinterpreted as a word, such as "OK" (which is why AP lists eight state names that should never be abbreviated—AK, HI, ID, IA, ME, OH, TX, UT).

This would have cleared things up:

Hooker, Oklahoma, Author Publishes Children's Book

The source of this gaffe appears to disagree with me, however:


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