Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this 'punctuation book' I'm about to refer to offering completely conflicting information in its chapter about Comma usage?
On page 63 of 'Webster's New World: Punctuation', there's a section highlighting "When no comma is necessary" to separate terms connected by conjunctions. Here, it gives the following sentence as a poor example of punctuation, with the unnecessary insertion of the comma: "Maxwell did not please the Internal Revenues agent, or his accountant."
And yet, on the previous page, the author writes the following sentence: "Don't automatically place a comma in front of every conjunction, or joining word." Isn't this exactly the same sort of construction? The comma is working against the author's own advice!
I have studied syntax to the degree that I can tell you that sentence (1) has two two direct objects, 'agent' and' accountant', and it therefore wouldn't make sense to separate them with punctuation. Similarly, in sentence (2), we have two completers, 'conjunction' and 'word', of the preposition 'of'. Why is the comma present in that sentence?
Concluding with the wider issue here, why is it that I observe top journalists, authors, academics, and so forth constantly violating this comma-with-coordinate-conjunction rule? Even in a flippin syntax book I'm reading the author breaks predicates with commas, like so: "Speakers are unconscious of the rules they use all the time, and have no difficulty in producing or understanding sentences."--from 'English Syntax: An Introduction' by JB Kim
There seems to be no consistency!
If anybody can provide some clarity for me with an answer, I would be eternally appreciative!