Grammar geeks all over the world will battle this issue until the end of time. It’s almost as controversial as abortion, health care, and gay rights. The debate: the serial comma (aka the Oxford comma) and its relevancy.
What is the Oxford comma?
This is a comma usually used before the word ‘and’ in a series.
Ie: For dinner, we had mashed potatoes, fried chicken, green beans, and rolls.
In school, we were taught to always use that comma. No exceptions. However, when I worked on my college newspaper, I learned that Associate Press says to remove it. What?! It felt like my world turned upside down.
Should You Use the Oxford Comma?
It depends. If you’re writing a college paper, probably. Although, I’ve heard some professors don’t care. If you work for a magazine or newspaper, probably not. If you’re writing for your blog, decide and be consistent.
The comma was originally deleted to save space in newsprint, and with everything going digital, that’s no longer a concern, so it may make sense to use it. I’m a fan of using the comma because you can change the entire meaning of a sentence without it:
I don’t argue usage often because, much like religion, the decision to use the Oxford comma is a personal one. My rational is I can list more reasons to use it instead of not using it. It does clarify meaning, it does help the reader pause, and it separates items in a series. Saving space is not enough of a reason to not use it.
And even though my job requires me to remove it and follow AP style, I do use it if there is more than one ‘and’ in a sentence because AP doesn’t address that instance.
Ie: On our vacation, we hiked and biked though the mountains, ate seafood, and went to an amusement park.
Therefore, I recommend using it unless otherwise told. I don’t think the Oxford comma will ever disappear, especially with more than 30,000 Facebook fans and possibly millions of hard-core grammarians supporting its usage.
What are your thoughts? Are you pro or anti Oxford comma? Tell us why in the comments section!