How Commas Are (Were) Made

by • January 17, 2013

Comma History 

“In the 3rd century BC, Aristophanes of Byzantium invented a system of single dots (distinctiones) that separated verses (colometry), and indicated the amount of breath needed to complete each fragment of text, when reading aloud. (1) The different lengths were signified by a dot at the bottom, middle, or top of the line. For a short passage (akomma), a media distinctio dot was placed mid-level ( · ). This is the origin of the concept of a comma, although the name came to be used for the mark itself, instead of the clause it separated.

The mark used today is descended from a diagonal slash, or virgula suspensiva ( / ), used from the 13th to 17th centuries to represent a pause, and was first used by Aldus Manutius.” (2) (3)


Found at Wikipedia.


(1) Truss, Lynn (2004). Eats, Shoot & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books. p. 72. ISBN 1-59240-087-6.

(2)  Reading Before Punctuation – Introduction to Latin Literaturepamphlet, Haverford College

(3) Manuscript Studies, Medieval and Early ModernPalaeography: Punctuation glossary