The Oxford Comma

Apparently, Oxford decided to update its style guide in 2009 to get rid of the “Oxford comma,” also known as the “serial comma,” for reasons not entirely clear. For those of you who aren’t English majors or grammar geeks (and do not have mothers that are), the Oxford comma is present in the first example, but not the second:

I invited John, James, and Harry.

I invited John, James and Harry.

I’ve always used the Oxford comma, though I don’t think I ever called it that until recently. It was taught to me as the proper way to build a sentence back when I was probably around six years old, and its use by nearly every author I’ve read only serves to further cement its “correctness” in my head – regardless of what Oxford’s style guide says. As a result, this change seems both arbitrary and not particularly useful – which begs the question, why was the change made at all?

My theory: the British just love to make rules.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing a blog post about this, as a matter of fact, except perhaps as a result of a chat conversation earlier between a friend and I. Well, that, and it gives me an excuse to post this:

2 thoughts on “The Oxford Comma”

  1. I’ve always used the Oxford comma…Once, a teacher told me that because of its lack, the last wishes of a deceased person were not followed. His estate was to be divided equally among 3 children. Because of the lack of a comma, the estate was divided 50/50 between the 1st child and a combination of Child 2 & 3 (who, as a result, each received 25%). SO….it levels out ambiguity. I think getting rid of it is a mistake!

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