I write for many different publications. My writing is edited differently for each one of them depending on their individual style guides. Each editor reviewing my work adheres to a policy regarding comma use. None of them share mine.
I love commas, personally, but understand when to limit their use for ~style~ purposes. I adore stream of consciousness, using it when I want to sound rant-y and breathless and passionate. Asyndeton is a rhetorical device one can use to make each point within a series poignant, gripping, emphasized. Additionally, using periodic sentences reinforces any sass you may intend if you choose to sound invective while not blathering on more than immediately necessary in an effort to quicken the pace. Example: the first paragraph of this piece contains short sentences in which I bluntly complain about something. If they were long and elaborate we would have no chance of identifying the beautiful staccato. A comma’s absence is just as necessary as its presence.
To put it frankly, editing should be more about fixing grammar and ensuring style continuity, not style alteration. My style is not your style, but if I’ve done my job as a writer, you should be able to identify it and make sure it is consistent. My voice includes my silences. Commas are the brief pauses of the written word. And suspensions are essential, but all too often we see them being overdone, causing our sentences to be choppy and long, separating thought from thought, point from point. Too many fragment a sentence and render it unreadable, unable to be understood as I intended.
America loves the comma, and I think that’s only because we don’t know how to use it well, sparingly. Since basic grammar is not taught in its own class in most primary (and even secondary) schools, it’s harder to pick up on the more nuanced rules of English proper, not just the dialects in which we speak. Stylistically, we as a nation, we as a language, use commas incorrectly. And because we’re so jaded, most people don’t see a problem anymore because they write what they read. It’s all we know anymore.
The Oxford Comma in particular is a debate in which writers engage on a daily basis. While I use it—because, as I mentioned before, I love this little punctuation mark and appreciate the respite it gives us—the differences in the aforementioned style guides dictate who uses it and who does not. The Associated Press doesn’t, so when we read pieces from publications that obey to that style, we see less commas than we would otherwise. This is a bit ironic, considering that Americans, generally, overuse commas. If the news industry does not use the Oxford Comma, shouldn’t we observe this. Alas, we do not. We’re still as comma-happy as ever.
I think this is a mark—a punctuation mark, if you will—of it being time to change. We’re using language so willy-nilly that we can no longer appreciate the elements that make a single sentence simple or compound, which, in turn, prescribe how we may understand it. We cannot simply speak anymore; we need to actually consider what we say and how we say it and when, if the opportunity presents itself logically, to take even the briefest pause to ensure those who are listening can stay on the same page.