Guest Post: Be The Comma


by Paul Christopher

Though, I am sure there are exceptions to this thought, it seems as though every punctuation mark forces a thought, an idea, or statement to come to a halt.

First there is the granddaddy of punctuation: The period. While texting and emailing has given it a strange dulling effect, traditionally, the period makes a firm statement that is both emphatic and certain. There is a level of pride associated with the period, and a degree of seriousness for it often serves as the closing argument.

Period. The end.

Sure, we can use it as a pause, such as when we space one word out with all individual periods.


But really, the letters are just spaced out and there are periods in between each letter

Maybe, just maybe, I am reading too much into it.

Either way, you see my point…

Ah, but right there, I just used three periods.

You see my point.

I am telling you do.

You see my point…

There is more to come.

Then, of course, there is the period’s enthusiastic New York cousin: The exclamation point. Straight-forward. Authentic. Honest in its intention. It says what it means, creating a new sound that rings in your ears. A sudden burst (or outburst) of energy. Possibly even a total change of mood.

A scream, a jump, a sense of fear or anger. It could express excitement, pride or joy. Fear. There are multiple occasions when you may find it more appropriate to use an exclamation point, most especially if you are looking to stir up these emotions in your audience.

I love you!

I hate you!

I need you!

I don’t need you!

I want you!

Get out!


Please Stay!

The most vulnerable is the question mark. Always looking down retrospectively and a little disconnected with itself, the question mark hangs with a sense of concern, anxiety, and a terrible fear of rejection. There are times when it can be a little passive-aggressive, but whether rhetorical or authentic, question is a question, period! The end.

Alas, we meet the comma. What is the significance of the comma? It’s the queen on the chess board, the thoughtful and wise elder, the philosopher who tries to see both sides of thought and bring them together. The one who savors sweet anticipation.

Let us consider the ways to make use of a comma. A comma will indicate when you should change the style of your reading, whether or not one needs to pause. It serves to highlight, with a strengthened tone of voice, a certain word, phrase, place, thing, or person; a noun that is “proper.

Commas offer us the flexibility to run on a bit in our sentences. It helps us to organize the structure of our sentences, and to combine our thoughts. Thus, it allows us to bring thoughts together allowing us a greater description of someone or something through its highly appropriate placement. A comma gives you the power to create or recreate. You could be set to end a thought, to make a final statement, but the comma comes in and gives you more time and more control. This period with the little hook allows you to hook attention…this is just the beginning!

The most crucial part of the sentence tends to lay before after and or in between (two) commas.

I thought about this when I created the following design for my tattoo.

def I nE ,


def I nE ,

def I nE ,

There is a comma spaced slightly after the last letter of the word ‘E” which looks capitalized.Yet, in measurement of size of letter, the I still is a larger font. The I is also made up of a few components. On the bottom (or left) wall of the I shows 03.25 directly across from this falls 06.28 and there is a stem connecting the two walls made from the word love, which is written in script. A star resembling an asterisk hangs off the tip of the letter ‘e’ in love.

I designed my tattoo to maintain a great deal of depth and dimension throughout the full image, which comes together to tell short story. I see it as a summary of all of the experiences, memories, hopes, wishes and desires of my life. There is a reason the I stands out, and it is not because I feel the word or the world revolves around me. I drew it to be the most significant to all of the letters and memories that make up the word.

Who I AM.

Who am I?

I am who?

I AM, who?

I stands for ME.

An individual.

The individual who chooses what defines me.

I choose to love.

I define love.

The I serves as reminder to stay centered, to nurture myself in order to nurture the love I give. It reminds me to protect myself, to include myself in the whole. There is no statement without I. I must always be there to define anything, most especially love.

In my design, love is being protected. There is a period on both sides. The love I maintain for myself-whether it is old love, new love, redefined or renewed love, it cannot break through the barriers to mix with the love that I have for myself. This, of course is much different from being in love with oneself, which I can safely say that I am not.

I am love. Period.

Whether or not I am loved, or in love…

Finally, there is the star which is really Asterisk.

An asterisk.

A Risk.


Is a risk.

To hurt and be hurt is human, but there is no love behind walls. No love without chance. With love given, one grows and blossoms. One is transformed. Love with embrace. Love with trust. Love with abandon. Love fearlessly.


Love, but…

Love with perspective.

Love with intent.

Whether the love in your past has come to painful-final-stops or been confusing run-on sentences that start at one place and end somewhere else, you must pick up a fresh piece of paper and color it with the intent of telling a brand new story. You must use your power to interpret love, to spell it out, to define it. Then redefine it. Love evolves. Give yourself the privilege to always be full of love. Redefine the love expelled, when necessary, but never deprive yourself…

Be the comma,

in love,


Paul Christopher is an artist and writer embracing life in New York City. @PaulChristoph3r

Note: I am honored to publish Paul’s first piece. A brilliant artist and dear friend, I find his outlook refreshing and love to sit and listen to his theories, which I always find thought-provoking and comforting. Please share your thoughts about his piece in the comment section below.

(Photos Courtesy of You by Lou)

43 thoughts on “Guest Post: Be The Comma

    • Paul Christopher says:

      thank you, Pam. I always wanted a tattoo, but told myself I would only get one when and if I felt compelled to. It needed to have a very profound meaning and I knew I would draw it myself.



  1. Keri Fisher says:

    Thanks for this article, it is very unique and thought-provoking. I always thought the language that we use in our every day lives is so vital to how people receive us and how we make others feel. Never thought this about punctuation though…Can’t wait to read another one!!


  2. Despina says:

    Rather than using the period, exclamation point, or question mark, in love, the comma does establish both a past and future not only between a couple in love but also for the individual who constantly creates new beginnings or recreates passed events. This is an overall really intriguing way of applying standard punctation rules to such an unpredictable topic of love as well as an enjoyable read. Also, such an amazing and thoughtful tattoo!


  3. Brittany Thambounaris says:

    This piece is extremely thought-provoking! Who knew that a comma, as well as the other forms of punctuation could hold such versatility? I loved every second of reading this. It triggered a feeling of hope inside of me and allowed me to realize that I need to start being the “I” in my own life. After all, life can be snatched from us in the blink of an would be a shame to not embrace it while we have it!


    • Paul says:

      Great question! The numbers signify the two dates in my life that cannot change: my birth and rebirth. My birthday is June 28th (06.28) and March 25, 2007 (03.25) marks the day when I was a pedestrian hit by a drunk driver. I was resuscitated and placed in a medically induced coma. These are ‘hard’ dates, which define my presence in life and will not change. All else I have the power to define, create and redefine or recreate.


  4. erin says:

    This is by far one of the best tatoos ive seen. The thought u have given towards creating such a great tatoo is wonderful! Its a beautiful piece of body art!


  5. Jena says:

    Wow! First of all your tattoo is amazing and I love how much thought you put into your tattoo. I feel as though people shouldn’t just ink their body without reason, you took it to an entirely different level. I’d love it if you’d design my next tattoo! I’m an English teacher and analyze text for a living and I’m very impressed by your design and your reasoning behind it!


  6. Jamie says:

    I am the comma. I try to live life like the comma but never new it. The comma, to me, now represents a natural ebb and flow of life and my experiences along the way. Thank you Paul for bringing our attention to view punctuation from your creative perspective. Well done.


  7. Viv Adams says:

    By the way, Shakespeare used punctuation in his plays as a means to assist the actor on how to deliver a line. There was much thought given to it…. I guess great minds think alike…you and Shakespeare :) This was an amazing piece which I truly enjoyed reading! P.S. I like the “?” – it seems quizzical, sarcastic, while mocking the reader.


  8. Dana says:

    I love how I find myself thinking about the personalities of different punctuations after reading this article. I know Paul personally and I can say that this is the tip of the iceBURG with him. He is so creative, thoughtful and strong and has such a wonderful outlook on life that I do not doubt people will enjoy his articles to come. Although I know this creativity resides in him, I have seen it manifest in other ways, for example art, fashion and interior design, but not in writing. I’m truly impressed and anxious for the next article!


  9. Lauren says:

    I am left thinking and thinking some more. This article is beautifully crafted and places more love into in than many place into their own lives. Spreading this love is something I know Paul has worked very hard over the past few years of his life and this article represents that regardless of battles fought, everyone can discover love and meaning in life. I am so proud of the time, effort, patience and thought that has gone into this piece; it now acts as a symbol of your individuality. Congratulations!


  10. Michelle says:

    very interesting concept. it definitely makes me look at punctuation in a different way. the tattoo itself is beautiful and i like how no one will really know what it means, as it is special to you.


  11. Marina Vaskovich says:

    “Comma is the queen on the chess board, the thoughtful and wise elder, the philosopher…. A comma gives you the power to create or recreate.” Love this! In my native language comma was occasionally used to grant life or death. This is a great story fulfilled in a tattoo with the help of punctuation… Who knew !?!


  12. shannon says:

    i absolutely love this piece and love paul. thought provoking, sincere and truthful. i cannot wait to read more of his work. truly a talented, sweet, kind, amazing, fun, artistic person…congrats paul.


  13. Melissa says:

    This article is nothing short of MAGNIFICENT. Although we use it everyday, it is amazing how easy it is to overlook the meaning behind punctuation marks and which ones we choose to use or choose not to use. Paul, your energy and love can be truly felt in this piece and I am SO proud (and appreciative) of you for sharing this piece of you with us. Your tattoo is a beautiful reflection of you, Paul. You are without a doubt an inspiration and have given me a new perspective on what we tend to minimize in life that hold reals value when looked at from a different angle. In a world filled with endless trivial distractions, it is so easy to lose sight of oneself and get caught up in the motions of life. We all need to be the “I” and live for ourselves…after all, we only have one life to live so might as well make the best of it, take that bull by its horns, and stay true to who we TRULY are. Congratulations!!! I know this will be one of many wonderful articles and am looking forward to them all!


  14. Casey says:

    Paul you always had such insightful theories…who would of thought you would someday use this creativity to write to the rest of the world! Keep it going chach ;)


    • Casey says:

      Ps there is a children’s book that is a fun way of introducing each punctuation mark in a thematic witty way (for a second grader). This reminds me of a much more mature thought provoking version …really leaves you wondering which punctuation am I?


  15. kristabelle says:

    I thought this was very thought-provoking and original. The writer/artist seems very philosophical and it is refreshing to have someone try to get more in touch with themself.


  16. Julie says:

    This piece is nothing short of thought-provoking and insightful. Keep creating Paul! Can’t wait to see what comes next for you! xx


  17. sheri says:

    Paul This was an Awsome Article — You are really Very Talented , & really a Very strong person , I really enjoyed reading the Articles that you send to me

    See you soon

    Sheri :-))))


  18. Paula says:

    A very powerful and original article. You are an extremely talented and gifted person. You’ve truly shared very strong emotions that certainly make a person stop and think.Through your writings the character of who you are as a person genuinely blossoms. Hats off to a great piece and I look forward to future articles


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