The Oxford Comma Debate

by • March 12, 2013

Guest Post from Jocelyn Blore

Proper use of punctuation used to be the territory of editors and lonely grammar enthusiasts. One punctuation mark, however, has been catapulted into the popular consciousness with articles by The Economist, NPR, Mental Floss, and others, not to mention a hit song by Vampire Weekend. I’m speaking of course about the Oxford comma.

Quick test: In a hypothetical Oscar acceptance speech to the Academy, which would be correct?

A: “I’d like to thank my parents, Bill Hudson and Goldie Hawn.”

B: “I’d like to thank my parents, Bill Hudson, and Goldie Hawn.”

The answer is: It depends. If you’re Kate Hudson and your parents really are Bill Hudson and Goldie Hawn, ‘A’ would be appropriate; if, however, you’re thanking four people (your parents in addition to the actors), ‘B’ would be the correct response.

Although the debate rages on, I am on Team Oxford Comma — confident in my belief that the Oxford comma is essential in clarifying meaning. Detractors, on the other hand, attest that the Oxford comma is unnecessary and redundant.

The following infographic examines both camps, as well as where mainstream publications are drawing lines. Which side are you on?

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Jocelyn Blore is a left-handed lover of Thai food and problem-solving. When she’s not juggling a soccer ball in parks around San Francisco, she writes for OnlineDegrees.com and Schools.com.

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