Thursday, June 30, 2011


It has recently come to my attention through GalleyCat that the University of Oxford Writing Guide has recommended writers avoid the Oxford comma (or serial comma) "as a general rule."

(See below for an example.)

Wait. What?! You Punctuation Police can't just take something that has been a rule and decide it doesn't work any more. Oh, wait. This is the English language we're talking about? Yes, by all means, randomly change the rules so it's nearly impossible for anyone to keep up. Have to say though, you guys keep us on our toes.

***The Oxford comma is the one that separates three ideas and an "and." For instance: I bought a pen, notepad, and bookmark. The comma after notepad is the Oxford comma. It tells us that notepad and bookmark are two, distinct objects.

In the past, you only clumped things together that went together. Example: For lunch, I had chips, peanut butter and jelly, and a milk. The peanut butter and jelly are part of the same notion, so you wouldn't use a comma. There are countless debates regarding the Oxford comma. You can find a list of pros and cons at the ever nifty Wikipedia .

While I mourn the loss of the necessary and functional Oxford comma, I won't go too deep into myself in search of answers. I'm sure Oxford, or some other rule maker, will decide the comma is pertinent once again...right about the time we adjust to not using it.

So where do you guys stand on the Oxford comma? Are you as devastated by this loss as I am, or is it just a thing of the past?


Elizabeth Isaacs said...

And herein lies the quandary of the English language. Personally, as The Chicago Manuel of Style is the industry standard for publishing, whatever they says goes. Oxford really doesn't have much to say on the matter anymore. Still, at the end of the day its up the the writer how they choose to use the language, now isn't it?

Linda Poitevin said...

Definitely devastated, and not planning on switching. So there. :P

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