By Glenn Fleishman
September 19, 2018

In an administration headed by a president who employs spelling, punctuation, grammar, and capitalization with the subtlety of Emeril Lagasse adding a pinch of spice, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made it known that he prefers his staff takes particular care with their comma usage, according to CNN.

Two memos obtained by CNN, lays out his preference for State Department employees to use commas properly for more effective communications. The memos, little writing lessons in the use of the Chicago Manual of Style, provide excellent examples, including citing previously inaccurate uses, along with corrected revisions.

English teachers and professional writers may admire the extent to which prickly-about-punctuation Pompeo commands that commas conform at the State Department—despite the Command in Chief’s callous compliance.

The CNN report quotes anonymous senior State Department officials noting that previous occupants of the office have also had their own predilections for punctuation: Colin Powell was outspoken about typeface choices and their sizes; Condoleezza Rice disliked memos crammed with small text in order to fit within memo length limitations.

Oxford commas, or the use of a comma preceding the final item in a list of three or more before the “and” or “or”—as in “eats, shoots, and leaves”—remain preferred within the State Department.

On semicolons, Pompeo remains silent; on long dashes—not a tittle.

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