The ongoing Oxford Comma saga

In June 2011, Oxford University Press dropped the Oxford Comma from its style manual.

For a quick review, the Oxford Comma is the one used before the “and” in a series. For example: For Christmas, I’d like new towels, a DVD of Sherlock, and a date with Tom Hiddleston. 

Now, journalists following the AP Stylebook had already eschewed the Oxford Commas for a long time, unless it was necessary for clarity or legality. There’s the old example about Tom, Dick and Harry inheriting parts of an estate and Tom getting 1/2 while Dick and Harry had to split the other half instead of the three boys each receiving a third, if it had been written as “Tom, Dick, and Harry.”

But then on Tuesday, the Twitter-verse lit up with this example of why resurrecting the old Oxford Comma might be a good idea: 

castro comma

I’m not advocating we bring back the Oxford Comma for good. But this is a great example of how all rules need to flex for clarity’s sake. No writing style manual can be so inflexible that it doesn’t allow a comma to be put back in (or removed) if it helps the sentence.

Meanwhile, The Word Nerds wish the President and Mr. Castro all the best …

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4 thoughts on “The ongoing Oxford Comma saga

  1. Randy Smith says:

    WELL done. Long live the Oxford comma.

  2. […] The ongoing Oxford Comma saga ( […]

  3. I’m a huge proponent of the Oxford comma as a blanket rule, because it resolves more ambiguities than it creates. That said, Oxford’s own style guide allows for precisely the flexibility you advocate:

    “As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used…”

  4. […] The ongoing Oxford Comma saga ( […]

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