The Washington Post

Fanfare for the comma man: Michael Wolff

New York media light Michael Wolff churns out required reading in times like these, when Rupert Murdoch and his kin are plotting their way through a public crisis.

The AdWeek editorial director’s latest piece takes us inside the family dynamic: Who supports embattled News International big shot Rebekah Brooks? Who doesn’t? It’s complicated, because apparently the wife, Wendi, and the kids are on opposite sides of this one. Great stuff.

The trouble with Wolff, though, lies in punctuation. Specifically, the commas. Years back, he spent nine months interviewing members of the Murdoch family and spun that reporting, plus a ton of commas, into the book “The Man who Owns the News.”

It may have taken me seven or eight sittings to polish off The Man; it would have taken six or seven if only Wolff had kept his finger off the comma key. Frustration with his constant appositivization spiked on Page 272. There, Wolff was delving into some rich details about family members, and out came this parenthetical:

(Petronella Wyatt would, like Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth, become, in a generation’s time, the talk of London.)

That’s a one-to-four comma-to-word ratio.

I sent Wolff, over the weekend, an e-mail seeking a comment on, and perhaps an explanation for, his punctuational habits. No response yet.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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