on Jane Friedman:
Hardly anyone would argue that commas don’t matter, but plenty of people—including plenty of writers—give them too little thought. At some point in their lives they might have tried to understand all the rules (commas to restrict information? Oxford commas? vocative commas?). They wanted to hug the English teacher who said they could simply use them “wherever you would pause if speaking.”
They went on their way, relieved to think commas were a style choice, there weren’t necessarily hard-and-fast rules, they could let an editor worry about that. Or a reader, who would be saddled with the extra mental work required to discern the author’s intended meaning.
Actually, though, you cannot just put commas where you would pause when speaking. Why? Because the presence or absence of a comma conveys meaning.