Moment of Zen: Oxford Comma Edition

By Katie, 5:37 am

The Oxford comma – also known as the serial comma – is that little period with a tail that is sometimes used before the coordinating conjuntion in a list of three or more items. Example: I ate ice cream for dinner on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The Oxford comma is the one preceding the word “and.”

Whether or not the Oxford comma is necessary is a topic of hot debate among linguists and grammarians (you know, the cool crowd!). Where you side probably depends on a variety of factors: what you were taught in school, what kindĀ of writer you are, which side of the Atlantic you live on, etc.

I personally am an Oxford comma devotee, so I just loved this!


Where do you fall?

A. Of course you need the Oxford comma! Without it there would be mass chaos!
B. Psssshhhh. The Oxford comma is only for fuddy-duddies.
C. Ummmm, get a life? ;-)

25 Responses to “Moment of Zen: Oxford Comma Edition”

  1. Jen says:

    Oxford Comma all the way, baby! Ha. I’m an English teacher, and it’s SO.HARD. for me to not mark it as “wrong” when students don’t use the Oxford Comma, but since it’s controversial, I try to let it slide. But it irks me!
    Something else I’ve gotten into facebook debates on (not grammar, but perhaps of similar interest to you and linguists) — double space after the end of a sentence or single space? I’m a double space kind of girl, something about the finality of it, but in space-conscious venues, like newspapers, totally understand the use of the single space. But my fingers automatically double space after a period — it’s a psychological thing for me.

    • Katie says:

      That is so interesting! I’m a single space gal, but one of my co-workers fiercely supports the double space. It comes up in conversation more than you might think! :)

    • Wendy says:

      I’m all for the Oxford comma, but very much against the double space after sentences. I do some copy-editing for friends (we’re all amateur fiction writers), and they all use double spaces. Well, my problem comes when they get so used to the double spaces that they add extra spaces between words in the middle of a sentence. If you only do a single space everywhere, I think that’s less likely to happen. That’s my excuse for not doing it anyway, lol!

      Thanks for posting this; I’d seen it somewhere before, and needed to refer to it again (doing some editing for one of those writer friends!), but didn’t have it bookmarked. Definitely doing that with your page!

  2. christina says:

    YES! I still use the last comma. I handle all the documentation for my company, and one of our requirements is to use the Oxford comma. :)

  3. Haha that image is great. I am a fan of the Oxford comma–I’ve always used it!
    Funny thing is, though, that I’m currently doing an editorial internship and AP Style mostly encourages NOT using the the Oxford comma. A little piece of me is hurt every time I can’t throw that comma into a sentence while I’m editing a writer’s article, haha.

    • Katie says:

      SOOOOO neat that you’re doing an editorial internship!!! I’d love to pick your brain about that sometime.

  4. MK says:

    Always use the Oxford comma. Such a tiny little way to promote clarity in the world.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Just in case you’ve never heard this song:

    (Love your blog – been a subscriber for quite a while now …I’m just not much of a commenter.)

  6. Haha, I love grammar related issues. I don’t use it:)

  7. I have to use the comma!! I hate it when other people don’t! Ha! :)

  8. Alexis says:

    I like it. I’d use it. But I’ve heard B too many times.

  9. Maria says:

    I’ve gone in phases. I spent a couple of years not using it, and now I use it again. When editing other people’s work, I try to be flexible if it’s clear they’re consistent.

  10. Lisa says:

    I was taught NOT to use the Oxford Comma, however, I much prefer reading with it in use.
    And the single/double space thing? I believe double space was taught for typewriters (as it was when I was in school) and single space was taught for keyboarding on computers. Maybe it is a generational thing!

  11. A!!! It changes the whole picture!

  12. I love the Oxford comma because that was how I was taught by my favorite and fabulous high school English teacher – Ms. Persons!!

  13. peacebeme says:

    I am in category A – I ALWAYS use the Oxford comma. I just never knew it was called that.

  14. I didn’t know about this controversy, or even that it’s called Oxford comma! Thanks for the lesson!
    My first language is German, and we don’t use a comma before the word ‘and’, so that additional comma always looked strange to me. But I think I’ll use it from now on. I kind of like the Oxford comma.

  15. Alisuchi says:

    I most definitely use the Oxford comma…we’re friends from way back ;) Unless, of course, I am editing for someone whose preferred style guide indicates otherwise ;p

  16. Dave says:

    I knew we were meant for each other! Oxford commas all the way!

  17. Kate says:

    I <3 the Oxford comma. Not using it just looks wrong. (And there is no way you can get me to stop double spacing after a period. It was drilled into my head at a young age, and I can't stop now!)

  18. Jenny says:

    I always use the Oxford comma, especially after a professor explained that in a hypothetical legal case where the assets were to be divided equally to Tom, Fred and Bob, Tom should technically get 1/2 and Fred and Bob should split the other half. Only when it reads Tom, Fred, and Bob is the estate divided in thirds.

  19. Sean B. says:

    Oh, “A,” obviously!

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