Long Live the Oxford Comma

Jill Baughman
27

word nerdThere are few topics so divisive among grammarians as the Oxford comma (also called the Harvard or serial comma), one teeny tiny little symbol at the end of a list (written before "and," such as "baseball, football, and basketball"). And, okay, let's just get this out there right now: I am a huge proponent of the serial comma.

If you're a faithful reader of The Stir, you'll probably notice that we use serial commas in all of our stories. Most likely because I'm the one who sticks them in as the copy editor here. Ah, feel the power.

Why are we talking about serial commas now? The Internet was abuzz this morning with rumors that Oxford killed the serial comma, putting word nerds like me into an internal panic. But, thankfully, it has officially announced that the Oxford University Style Guide is the same. Only the OUP publicists dropped the Oxford comma.

And the peasants rejoiced.

Why do people hate this unassuming punctuation mark? They feel it's unnecessary and takes up space (back in the days when newspapers ruled, space, even for a tiny comma, was at a premium). People naturally pause before "and" in their minds. It's old and archaic looking. Oxford can't keep up with the constantly evolving English language and is falling behind the times by insisting on keeping it.

But take a quick gander at comments and Twitter, and it seems there are die-hard serial comma lovers just like me. We should totally start a club. Here's proof:

  • Ruth Shaver, who commented on an NPR article on the subject, summed it up perfectly: "To my mind, the serial comma is as necessary for clear written communication as vodka is for a screwdriver."
  • Nancy Stevenson, in the same article, commented: "I heart the Oxford comma, but never knew so many others felt the same."
  • Ross T on Twitter proclaimed: "The serial comma is functional, logical, and correct."
  • CooTweetBro also agreed: "No matter what Oxford says, I refuse to drop the serial comma when writing articles, e-mails, or tweets."
  • AbrahamHanover announced: "Things I will defend: My wife, my child, evolution, consent, the virtue of doubt, the serial comma, and they-singular. I am a simple man."
  • laurenlivesina took it to the extreme: "The serial comma is one of the sanest punctuation usages in the written language"

Of course, there are those who aren't fans of the serial comma, but they are few and far between. Or perhaps it's just us grammar dorks who have too much time on our hands to obsess over such meaningless trivialities. But, I will say, I'm glad I'm not alone!

Are you a fan of the serial comma? Why or why not?


Image via mollyollyoxenfree/Flickr

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