Tuesday, August 14, 2007

So Picky, But...

Here is a misplaced comma in David Brooks's New York Times column:

As the trucker spoke, I was reminded of a book that came out a few years ago called “The Dignity of Working Men,” by the sociologist, Michèle Lamont, who is now at Harvard. Lamont interviewed working-class men, and described what she calls “the moral centrality of work.”
When comma is in front of her name, it makes her identity a non-essential clause. This is not the case. Even if Harvard has hired only one sociologist lately, her name is necessary information in a sentence written this way.

The comma after her name, meanwhile, is correct. "Who is now at Harvard" is a phrase modifying Lamont.

Perhaps we are extra-persnickety today, but shouldn't a columnist at the world's most prestigious newspaper -- and his copy editor -- get this sort of thing right?

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