From Ben Yagoda’s Fanfare for the Comma Man in the New York Times:
As a professor at the University of Delaware, I read a lot of writing by college students, and in it a strong recent trend is reversion to comma-by-sound. I attribute this not so much to students’ love of the Constitution and the classics but to the fact that they don’t read much edited prose (as opposed to Facebook status updates, tweets and the like). Two things that you really need to read a lot to understand are punctuation and spelling. (Not coincidentally, spelling is the other contemporary writing disaster.)
As far as comma use goes, my students play it by ear. I see this most dramatically in sentences that start with conjunctions like “And,” “But” and “So.” (Your junior high school English teacher may have told you never to start a sentence with a conjunction. To the extent that was once true, it isn’t anymore.) So students will write sentences like this:
So, students will write sentences like this.
But, they are wrong.
You see this kind of thing all over the Internet as well. People punctuate that way because, if they spoke these sentences, they’d pause after the conjunction (and because the extremely fanciful and undependable Microsoft Word grammar and style checker refrains from applying a squiggly green underline). My students are, not illegitimately, making a grammatical transformation as well: turning the conjunctions into what are called “sentence adverbs” — words like “Presumably,” “However” and, yes, “Hopefully” that are followed by commas when they start sentences. Punctuation rules may and probably will change accordingly. But they haven’t yet, and I tell my students to lose the comma.
This brings up a key question: Who decides when and how punctuation rules change? The short answer is, no one.
I’m glad professors are paying attention to the ways the Internet impacts our language.
Our mantra when it comes to punctuation and spelling with social media is being understood is paramount. It’s ok to tweak grammar or even spelling in a tweet, but don’t do it unless you really need. Playing tricks with language can impair your readers’ comprehension – particularly readers with cognitive disabilities. You also risk undermining your brand’s credibility. Punctuation and proper spelling are your friends!