Copy by Clint


Frightening Comma Usage

Given the time of year, and that I have a 4-year-old, here’s something that’s been bothering me lately: the comma in Scaredy-Cat, Splat! I’ve not only spent a fair amount of time reading this book aloud the past few weeks, but I’ve been worrying at its title when I should be doing other things (like reading a book I want to read).

Did author Rob Scotton put that comma there to create a pause before the hero’s name? This is the only semi-reasonable purpose I can see here, yet it doesn’t grammatically justify the punctuation. So why, why, WHY is it there?

It’s making me nuts. I can’t figure it out.

The only potential conclusion I’ve drawn is a troublesome one: the comma is emphasizing “scaredy-cat” as an adjective. It’s doing something that really should not be done on/in a kid book. It’s highlighting name-calling.

The comma is both creating and forgiving the missing address of a longer, complete title: You’re a Scaredy-Cat, Splat!

Yeah, it’s lighthearted, and Splat is a “loveable” goof of a cat. The author’s not making fun of him. The other cats (and the spider) aren’t insulting him. Splat comes out a lauded winner in the end, as you'd expect. But man, that comma. It’s leveling a finger at him. 

Am I overthinking this? I think I know the answer to that.