The Comma Dot Key

Here’s a thought. If you’re using an English-language keyboard, you may have noticed the strange setup of two of the most commonly-required punctuation keys for grammatical typing: the comma key, and its neighbour the full-stop (or period, or dot henceforth, however incorrectly, because I dislike each of the other terms).

The strange part is that their shifted variants are angle-brackets, or chevrons to some, which are of marginal contemporary use unless you’re a programmer, or you’re typing in a language which uses those marks for another purpose. And if you’re indeed in one of those groups, then wonderful — you must be delighted. Enjoy your day.

I program only rarely now, but I write prose all the time. I’m also always thinking of ways to use fewer keys, and it occurs to me that there’s an obvious optimisation here: combine the two base symbols into a single key, choosing one as the bare keypress and one as the shifted variant. I give you the comma dot key.

For text in English, the comma is several times more common than the dot, so perhaps the comma would be the best choice as the bare keypress — but given the way that most people write, I suspect that the opposite configuration might be more popular overall.

When writing in English — as opposed to programming, or some other technical endeavours — we don’t need the angle brackets to have such a prominent position on the keyboard. So why not change that?

With that matter settled, I think that the similarly-inexplicable hyphen/underscore and forward-slash/question-mark keys on my keyboard ought to be feeling justifiably nervous.