OPM Disability Retirement Benefits: The misplaced comma

It is such an inconsequential mark in the universe of imprints that pervade, and yet so significant, but in a cloak of anonymity, when misplaced.  It possesses the same features as other punctuations of grammar — identical to the apostrophe, the same in mimicking as the singular quotation mark that is so prevalent; and the same shape is used in multiple diacritic writing systems common within Ancient Greek writing systems, and still survives apparently in the written systems utilized in Latvian, Romanian and Livonian.

It allows for clauses to appear, to become dependent and separated, and to confine into a separate meaning where the conceptual clause, whether dependent and leaning for support upon the main thought expressed, can convey an independence of meaning that adds and modifies the original idea.

It is the misplaced comma that makes one pause and ponder — why must we hesitate here?  Why did they put a red-light in the middle of the sidewalk?  Why does the sign say, “No passage” in the center of a store, and yet we can step beyond the red line and still proceed?

Does the misplaced comma apply in spoken language?  Take the following example: You are standing and talking to a friend, and the friend says: “Now, I want you to — no comma, here — know that tomorrow it is going — no comma, here — to rain— here, there is a comma — and therefore we have to have — no comma here — our umbrellas with us.”  Aside from rendering an irritating manner of speaking, it was all so unnecessary, wasn’t it?  We don’t have to apprise others of a misplaced comma unless it is actually misplaced, and when speaking as opposed to writing, it is not needed because the hesitation in speech itself tells us of the comma, whether misplaced or not.

In written form, however, the misplaced comma — again, aside from being a mere irritant — compels us to pause, to hesitate, to take a reflective millisecond — like coming upon a crack in the sidewalk when we were kids and thinking, “Should I skip and jump over it or just be brave and step on the crack?”

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the pervasive feeling of one’s tenuous position in the workforce is often likened to a misplaced comma.  You no longer “fit” into the mission of the agency.

Others begin to hesitate when approaching you; there is “talk about” you that you sense, and there appears to be commas all around, bifurcating, separating, creating dependencies that seem to segregate and confine, like invisible fences — nay, commas – that have been placed all around.

It is then time to begin to prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  Consult with an experienced attorney and replace the misplaced comma with an emphatic period that will end the misery that continues to deteriorate.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire