The Rise, Fall, & Rise of the Comma: History, Religion, and Language

The comma is known as a piece of punctuation that helps break up sentences by inserting short pauses. Commas can also add more clarity to sentences by separating adjectives and parts of sentences. Many of us are quite grateful for the comma, but have you ever thought about the origins of it? Who started it? What language did English steal it from?

The Comma as a slash.

 According to some, that answer would be Greek. Once upon a time, before the 3rd century BCE Greek sentences lookedsomethinglikethiswithnopunctuation. Lovely right? It was difficult to read and annunciate the correct words until a librarian named Aristophanes had had enough. He was frustrated about the difficulty of the documents he was supposed to read. So, he cleverly invented parts of the sentence called the commacolon, and periodos. They aren’t the comma, colon, and period we know today, but they were just dots placed after a word at the top, middle, or bottom to add clarity, spaces, and ease when reading.
However, when the Romans took over Greece they did away with the system, as most reading was supposedly done aloud and it didn’t matter what it looked like. After the Roman Empire’s decline, the comma began to make a comeback during the rise of Christianity and the Middle Ages, changing into a slash.
The comma became more like the comma today in Italy during the 1400s. A printer named Aldus Manutius changed the slash into a smaller and more curved mark. Thus, the the comma was born.