I attended a luncheon today and the business women at my table were questioning me about being a writer. Do I tape or write my interview notes by hand? (By hand in a composition notebook using a mechanical pencil.) Do I have all my questions written up before hand? (I will have a list of questions to start with but know that the interview could go just about anywhere so I like to leave space for surprises.) Do I favor the Oxford comma? (Of course. I am old school.)
In case you don't know, the Oxford comma is the comma placed before the and in a series of three or more terms. You can see that I use it in the title of Belle, Book, and Candle. Oddly enough, one publication I write for uses the Oxford comma and another doesn't.
I admitted to the women that even after all these years I sometimes get confused on correct comma usage and therefore I keep a spray bottle of commas on my desk. When I have finished a story, I just squirt some of the cute little marks into the text in case I missed any.
This is why I was glad to pick up a new book from the library, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris. Ms. Norris is a writer and a copy editor for The New Yorker and is known for her columns on grammar and punctuation. This is her first book and I can hardly wait to read it. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., the publisher, writes this on its website about Ms. Norris and the book:
Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord's Prayer as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn.
(Notice the use of the Oxford comma.)
The reader is also promised a tour of a pencil-sharpener museum. How can you beat that?
I will give a full report soon.
My bedtime reading is based on my recent Close Encounter with Alexander McCall Smith and I am re-investigating his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. The library has in its ebook collection all fifteen tales of Mma Ramotswe's adventures as Botswana's only female detective. It is a pleasure to once again read AMS's loving descriptions of Africa and watch how he develops the characters. I enjoy the little mysteries and their solutions. Mma Ramotswe almost always opts for the kindest way of helping her clients even when the news is bad. I am now in the middle of book three, Morality for Beautiful Girls.
I do believe that Mr. McCall Smith favors the Oxford comma. Just in case you were wondering.