Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Oxford Comma, or the best thing to come out of Oxford since the ox forded

The Oxford comma (also called the series comma or the Harvard comma) is the comma used immediately before a coordinating conjunction (usually and  or or) preceding the final item in a list of three or more.

For example:

with the Oxford comma: I visited Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta.

without the Oxford comma: I visited Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Who cares, right?  I mean, why do we need the Oxford comma?

Here's why.  Use of the comma makes things less ambiguous.  Like this book dedication by Teresa Nielsen Hayden:

To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

wow.  Did you know her parents were Ayn Rand and God?  Or maybe it really should be:

To my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.

Well done, Oxford comma!  You've saved the day again!

And take a look at this fabulous example:

So I'm going to keep using the Oxford comma, because I don't ever want to end up with JFK and Stalin as strippers.

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