An E-mail with a Side of Communication, Hold the Commas

I often find it amusing that when people find out I'm a writer, they expect that I'm going to correct their e-mails or call them on their grammar errors. I don't do this and never have, unless asked to. I know some writers who do that as a matter of course, but I don't. However, I guess I should start. Here's why:

My boss never met a comma he didn't like. He puts them in everything, kind of like someone who puts ketchup on everything he eats--pickles, potato chips, chili, chocolate cake--nothing wouldn't taste better without a little ketchup on it. For my boss, nothing reads better than when it has several commas to tell the reader exactly where to pause. The problem is, my boss is kind of flaky so he thinks people need to pause every time something sparkly catches his eye, which is every other word. If you read a paragraph of his aloud, it would sound like you were gasping for breath, and I imagine you'd eventually hyperventilate. THAT'S how many commas this man uses.

But I don't care. I don't care because even though he's easily distracted, he's brilliant at his job, treats me with respect, and lets me do my job without micromanaging me to death. So even though it's fairly obvious that the comma key on his keyboard is probably worn out, I can still figure out what he's trying to say and so I've never said anything.

Then last week he stomps into my office, and we have the following exchange:

"You're a WRITER!?!" he yells, waving papers at me.
"Yeah," I say, praying he doesn't ask for details on what I write exactly.
"Why didn't you TELL me about my comma problem?" He's still yelling, and I'm confused.
"You know you have a comma problem?" I ask, and he rolls his eyes.
"Of course I do. Everyone knows I have a comma problem. I have no idea where they go so I just stick them in there."
"So why did you need me to tell you that you have a comma problem if you already know?" I ask, even more confused now.
"Because you're a WRITER!" he shouts, and storms off.


Come to find out that what he really meant was that he wanted to know why I hadn't offered to help him fix his comma problem, because apparently that's what writers do (skulk around looking for hapless grammar-challenged individuals to save from a life of comma over-use). I explained that it wasn't my place. Maybe his wife's or administrative assistant's, but not mine. So naturally now it is my place. He gets his first lesson tomorrow, and it will be, "Don't put any commas in anything for a week and we'll go from there."

Have you ever had to help a boss with his writing? I have a feeling this could end badly, so I'm treading lightly. People may say they want to get rid of a bad habit, but take their commas away, and even the nicest person can turn quite nasty. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, feel free to share your "helping the boss" experiences in the comments.

Happy Reading!

No comments: