"If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster." --Isaac Asimov

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Oxford drops the "Oxford comma"

I've been defending the use of the Oxford comma in couple of places recently, so it was somewhat ironic to see this bit of news:

Oxford Comma Dropped by a University of Oxford Style Guide

I like the Oxford comma for several reasons. First of all, it follows the general idea that a comma is inserted for a pause in a sentence; when you read a list such as "A, B, and C", you pause after each item. Dropping the comma--"A, B and C" just doesn't sound right.

In addition, the Oxford comma often helps to clarify the meaning of a sentence. "I went for a walk with my sons, John and Jack." Without the Oxford comma, the sentence would imply that John and Jack are my sons. However, with the comma, it becomes "I went for a walk with my sons, Jack, and John." Here, it's apparent that my sons are not named, and that Jack and John were two others who joined us on the walk.

So there, University of Oxford. I'll keep using your comma wherever it's needed.

Edit: It lives to fight another day, after all. The initial report was overblown.

1 comment:

digillette said...

I love the Oxford comma and will always use it. I also tell my students to use it and explain why, just like you did. It seems silly to leave it out.

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