There are two types of people in life (English speakers anyway)–those who are comma-phobic and use too few commas when they write, and those who have comma-rhea and use commas everywhere. Both are obviously wrong, and the [tag]proper use of commas[/tag] lies somewhere in between these extremes.
One of the problems here begins with the way English is taught in our K-12 schools. I think the cast-in-stone comma standard taught in public schools goes something like this: "Whenever you want a pause, you use a comma."
Now, while a comma can indicate a pause, that’s certainly not its main function, and conversely, a pause is not always best served by a comma. Dashes and parentheses also create nice pauses, to say nothing of periods and ends of paragraphs.
Stay tuned, and I’ll come up with an English Resources piece on commas in the near future.