Thursday, June 12, 2008

Comma, No Comma (part 1)

In today's Wall Street Journal (June 12, 2008), a front-page story titled "On the Lam and Living Large: Comverse Ex-CEO Parties in Namibia"

The subject of the story is introduced this way:

Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, the Israeli-born, former chief executive of Comverse Technology Inc., a New York Software company, who is wanted in the U.S. on stock-options backdating charges.

The point of interest to me is that comma--the one right after "Israeli-born."

I would not have used it. ". . . the Israeli-born former chief executive of . . ."

Because, those adjective phrases are not in any way similar. They not like "short, stout," which both describe appearance. 

This sort of comma--the one between adjectives--is giving me fits lately. I feel almost as though I've lost my bearings. At work, in other publications--I see other copyeditors who have put it in between adjectives where I would never have placed it. Or I wonder where it is, in text that I *know* has been reviewed by a copyeditor.

(In fact, I'm so troubled by this, and so weirded out at seeing commas in strange places--or not seeing them where I'd want them--that I started an e-mail group w/ the people whose copyediting judgment I trust most--I call it "Comma No Comma")

What about you--comma after Israeli-born, or not?


The Ridger, FCD said...

None. Commas separate descriptors. Anything so separated ought to be able to function as the only descriptor. But surely no one would say "Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, the Israeli-born, who is wanted in the U.S. on stock-options backdating charges". Would they?

TootsNYC said...

Hmm, that's a great test. I've been having trouble articulating how to tell when to use it.