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March 7, 2012

The Oxford Comma


No, not a Ludlum x O.E.D. mashup but, rather, the name given to a comma that should be deployed in certain situations (see illustration above) where its use is otherwise optional.

Also called the "serial comma."

Thanks to thelizabeff, one of my team of crack Chicago correspondents, for the instructive graphic that splains it better than I ever could.

Note to self: double her salary.

March 7, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Why risk being ambiguous when one extra button press (or a tiny slightly curved line) solves the whole issue?

Posted by: Rocketboy | Mar 8, 2012 12:11:12 AM

If punctuation is for commaners, spelling must be for sabordnits.

Posted by: Flautist | Mar 7, 2012 10:10:29 PM

I am an English language abuser. Hath not I have commas? Hath not I have colons,
periods, semi-colons, exclamation points; fed with the same
abuse, hurt with the same teachers, subject to the same children's ridicule,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same writers
and parents, as a non abuser is? If you censor us, do I cease to exist? If
you mock us, do we not drink profusely? If you spank us, do we not cry?
And if you correct us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.

Posted by: JoePeach | Mar 7, 2012 9:48:23 PM

punctuation is for commaners

Posted by: sherlock | Mar 7, 2012 9:20:31 PM

OMG, I do give a rip (I'm completely OCD about punctuation, actually), and was taught the old fashioned way; the "and" replacing the comma always made sense to me, so I preferred to do without the Oxford comma, out of habit. Now, I see how doing so leads to ambiguity, at best. I knew JFK was a wild man, but Stalin? Who knew? I think I see the light. Time to let it all go....

Posted by: tamra | Mar 7, 2012 8:03:10 PM

I've never understood why people get so uptight about punctuation...its about transferring meaning and this will always lose information.

However, unless you are writing for a complete idiot, the reader will understand the meaning 95% of the time. I personally don't write for idiots. And inconsistent punctuation helps me weed out those that I haven't already identified.

Posted by: clifyt | Mar 7, 2012 2:47:44 PM

We have opened one helluva can of worms, my friend--worms about which most people could give a rip, but a can nonetheless.

Posted by: thelizabeff | Mar 7, 2012 12:44:27 PM

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