Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Oxford Comma

What is the Oxford comma? Is it a comma that was educated in one of the world's most prestigious colleges?

Nope. It's the last comma in a list that comes right before the word "and."

I shall demonstrate.

"I'm going to a party with Bob, Jane, Mary, and Ted."

See that comma after "Mary?" That's an Oxford comma.

Now, there are many who would say that the placement of that comma is incorrect. In fact, if you're in England or Canada, it would be correct - they don't use the Oxford comma. (Which is odd because Oxford is in England. Whatever.)

But in the U.S., many of us (yes, I'm in this camp) believe that the Oxford comma is the way to go. It's more modern, it helps the sentence make better sense, and it makes us feel special to insist upon it.

So, unless you're in England or Canada (or one of the British protectorate countries), you'll want to go with the Oxford comma in your writing.

Tally ho!


Pam Williams said...

My heretical take: If by leaving out the Oxford comma you have confused the reader, the omission is wrong. In the example given, the reader would not be confused if the comma were left out. I don't think there should be a hard and fast rule. Punctuation should be like road signs, guiding the reader to the sense and meaning of the sentence.

That is all. As you were.

Canda said...

I've finally switched over to using the Oxford comma. I'm not consistent yet and have to think about it to use it. You've wond me over, Tristi. I used to think that it could be used sometimes and not used sometimes, but now I'd rather have it consistent over the full document.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I was talk in school NOT to use an Oxford comma, but I do now. I like the more consistent look, and I don't want to wonder if the reader will be confused or not.