Dave B wrote:But I still get annoyed with superfluous commas - just put it down to being an apidae in my bowler.
my bees tell me the opposite, and I have noticed very many sentences which are ambiguous because of missing commas. Of course I can't bring any to mind, but from now I will try to note them, as I see them, in this thread. I was renowned/notorious in a report-editing job years ago for adding commas to the original text, and in another job I almost came to blows with a woman who would actually write long sentences comprising lists of clauses which were punctuated by semicolons - semicolons, mark you, not commas - and then, between the penultimate and ultimate clauses, refused to put in any punctuation at all. Her reason was that her parents, both academics apparently, had told her that one must never put a comma between the penultimate and ultimate parts of a list, and she slavishly followed this, extending the execrable advice to semicolons as well! So I have contempt for most guidance on commas, including that of Fowler. Please try to imagine that you are SPEAKING these sentences, not just reading them silently. If you notice that you need to pause in order to communicate the sense as well as you can, then I argue that, in writing, this means that commas - or even semicolons - are required