Compliments of CNN.com: How NOT TO use commas!

Ah, the joys of reading CNN.com. I appreciate CNN. I do. But, a lot of the time, its punctuation leaves something to be desired. Or, in the case below, its punctuation left something out.

Here’s the sentence:

The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

This is textbook. Material enclosed by a pair of commas (or one, if it comes towards the end of a sentence) is referred to as parenthetical information; that is, information that’s nice to know but is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence/for the sentence to make sense. Parenthetical information can be removed from the sentence and the sentence still makes sense.

If the CNN.com sentence had commas in the right place, you could remove all the material inside the commas and still have a sentence that makes, well, sense. Does it? I don’t think so!

The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, the Duchess of Cornwall.

That’s an epic mistake! Here’s the way the sentence should read:

The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Take out the parenthetical information now, and you have a sentence that makes perfect sense:

The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne and his wife.