What Is the Oxford Comma and Why Do People Care So Much About It?

The Oxford (or serial) comma is the final comma in a list of things. For example:

Please bring me a pencil, eraser, and notebook.

The Oxford comma comes right after eraser.

Use of the Oxford comma is stylistic, meaning that some style guides demand its use while others don’t. AP Style—the style guide that newspaper reporters adhere to—does not require the use of the Oxford comma. The sentence above written in AP style would look like this:

Please bring me a pencil, eraser and notebook.

What Is the Oxford Comma and Why Do People Care So Much About It? Image

Unless you’re writing for a particular publication or drafting an essay for school, whether or not you use the Oxford comma is generally up to you. However, omitting it can sometimes cause some strange misunderstandings.

I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.

Without the Oxford comma, the sentence above could be interpreted as stating that you love your parents, and your parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty. Here’s the same sentence with the Oxford comma:

I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty.

Those who oppose the Oxford comma argue that rephrasing an already unclear sentence can solve the same problems that using the Oxford comma does. For example:

I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.
could be rewritten as:
I love Lady Gaga, Humpty Dumpty and my parents.

What do you think about Oxford comma? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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  • Russell Manning

    I prefer the Oxford comma.

  • Moe G.

    I like that sucker too. It’s symmetrical and pleasing, and the last two items don’t get grouped in my mind.

  • Weaky Sneasel

    Here’s an example sentence to help show why I think the Oxford comma should always be used, wherever possible: –
    – I like Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, and Tom and Jerry.

    This could be ordered, as suggested above for non-advocates, to:-
    – I like Tom and Jerry, and Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars.

    But may not be reordered to: –
    – I like Ziggy Stardust, Tom, Jerry and The Spiders from Mars.

    It is only consistent use of the Oxford comma (the comma proceeding the ‘and’, before the final item in the list) that makes it clear my original sentence is a list of two; and the only alternative is a semi-colon.

    Surely the Oxford comma is therefore critical, otherwise, to the unknowing it is potentially a list of four, i.e. by omitting the Oxford comma it becomes: –
    – I like Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars and Tom and Jerry.

    Which, of course, wrongly appears to be meaningfully indistinguishable from a four part list of: –
    – I like Ziggy Stardust, Tom, Jerry, and The Spiders from Mars.

    I firmly believe therefore, the only fully clear version from my examples above is this one: –
    – I like Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, and Tom and Jerry.

    With it’s beautiful and essential Oxford comma.

    • Steve Purple

      With its beautiful and essential Oxford comma.

      Sentence fragment aside, you’re just messing with us, right?

      • Weaky Sneasel

        Partially, yes, in terms of being overstated. In terms of where I deliberately left it out above, however, do you not agree my sentence was ugly and nonsensical?

    • tiptoe39

      If we’re talking about “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” as a single object, and “Tom and Jerry” as a single object, the sentence is actually grammatically correct with *no* commas in it. Your sentence is not a serial sentence because there are only two elements. Now, is it confusing with two elements, each containing an “and”? Absolutely, and it should certainly be rephrased. But you cannot defend that comma as an Oxford (serial) comma, because it is not in a series (which must contain at least three elements.)

      You would not put a comma in there if you were mentioning two nouns that did not contain “and”s, certainly!

      “I like Ziggy Stardust and Jerry Lewis.”
      You wouldn’t say “I like Ziggy Stardust, and Jerry Lewis,” would you?

      The grammar doesn’t change just because you have created compound nouns separated by an “and.” The clarity of the sentence changes, but the rule doesn’t.

      So this is not only not a defense of the Oxford comma, it’s a misplaced defense of a comma that’s incorrect to start with.

      • Weaky Sneasel

        Yes tiptoe, so you agree the comma was needed, but are arguing this comma is not an ‘Oxford comma’. OK, I fully accept your point, if I first accept your definition of an Oxford comma. However, I declared my understanding of it as a “comma preceding the ‘and'” in a list.

        And having looked it up, your definition is the one I find – not mine – so I’m wrong in my technical understanding of it, but it doesn’t quite make my point invalid, does it. It only opens the door ajar to the possibility of restructuring my sentence had I given a third noun.

        In which case, I could have written: my friend told me she likes “Jerry Lewis, David Bowie, and Tom and Jerry”. The Oxford comma is needed, and it cannot be restructured, as it is a quote.

        Rather than a misplaced defense therefore, it was perhaps only a failure to include a third item. The main point, that without it the sentence became confusing, we are agreed upon.

        And finally, I didn’t actually claim it was grammatically correct without it, I merely wrote it was an example of why I felt it should always be used. In other words: I was making the case for why, stylistically, I think it should always be used.

        • tiptoe39

          Actually, no, I don’t agree the comma is needed. With two items, there’s no comma between the two items.

          As to your point re: “Jerry Lewis, David Bowie, and Tom and Jerry,” the comma is required there regardless of whether your style guide requires a serial comma. Even when a style guide does not use the serial comma, there are times in which the comma is required – including when one of the series elements contain an “and.” So even in your three-element series, it’s not a strong defense of the use of the serial comma.

          Stylistically, you go with your bad self. But there’s a difference between personal style/writing aesthetics and capital-S Style, which is dictated by the publisher or publication you’re writing for. If you’re writing me an article for the Associated Press, and you complain when I take out the last comma in “red, white, and blue,” I’ll have zero sympathy for you, because the style guide, not you, decides whether there’s a comma there.

          I am just really sick of people thinking such a storied institution as the Associated Press is wrong somehow for not requiring the serial comma. By all means tout it as part of your personal aesthetic. But by the same token, allow me to defend institutions that don’t use it.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Firstly, you wrote “is it confusing… Absolutely”. If that isn’t agreeing then I don’t know what is.

            More importantly, The Associated Press is an American institution, so entirely irrelevant when considering the Oxford comma, or any other part of the English language. It may have some relevance to the variant American-English, but not real English – poor argument, even though our press tend to drop it also.

            Finally, you are being overly defensive don’t you think – in which case you’ll probably be boiling over now – but I clearly declared it’s use as my personal preference – at no point did I ever criticise the absence of the Oxford comma. Where did I complain to you for omitting it?

          • tiptoe39

            Agreeing to the problem isn’t necessarily agreeing to the proposed solution.
            I agree the sentence is confusing as written, but disagree with your suggestion that a comma makes it clearer.

            I wasn’t aware that this conversation, or this blog, was limited to British English. I have no authority on British English. You can consider this entire conversation moot if you choose.

            I’m absolutely defensive. You would be too if you spent 12+ years honing your craft, sometimes unlearning the definitions of rules you’d held sacred and starting from scratch, to be told by some meme-loving Facebooker without a year of editing experience that you were always wrong and they were always right.

            Don’t take any of this personally. That’s my job. 😉

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Well, cheer up, you’re not wrong. I was wrong regarding the technical definition of what the Oxford comma actually is, but not on it’s use – it’s just a style difference.

            English is my heritage, but its an import to you. That said, the vast majority of English is imported, and was imported before formalised spelling and grammar even existed. Consequently, we often don’t like being told we’re wrong, simply because we’re not using standards set down for American-English, which we don’t even recognise as correct.

            As for moot, I was trying to bait you when I called AP irrelevant, although you’ll understand, I’m sure, it isn’t really applicable to us (the English).

          • tiptoe39

            Then we can just chock this up to a little friendly across-the-pond rivalry. No harm, no foul. And I’m not at all surprised that I took your bait! These are the perils of being a passionate person. 🙂

            Incidentally, when I speak of it as a style choice, I’m actually not talking about writing style/personal aesthetic. I’m speaking of the fact that publications and institutions (at least in the U.S.) set their own standards for whether to use it – and as of now, at least, that standard differs among different publishing houses, meaning it is not yet a universal rule.

            My point was not that you were wrong — just that there actually is no universal “wrong” in this case. Not yet, at least. If enough memes go around Facebook for long enough, even the AP may eventually change its tune.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            It’s just my opinion but I would expect English to gradually diverge further, not come back together for a universal standard – it’s too widespread nowadays.

            The English for a start, aren’t ever going to accept the language they have exported can be updated by anyone “outside” GB. Similarly, I suspect Americans will never agree that the English should be the rightful custodians of the English language, even if the rest of the commonwealth might.

            What I envisage is an eventual evolution, which eventually results in the phasing out of English, in the same way that most European languages stem from Latin, yet Latin is no longer a main language anywhere. Even Italians no longer speak Latin and instead have created Italian.

            There was an article on here recently on colour vs color, where it was explained, apparently, color is preferred but either spelling is acceptable. Here (England) color is not acceptable as an alternative, and never will be a legitimate, alternative spelling – it’s wrong, and nothing short. Grammarly is an American based site of course.

            By the way, shouldn’t the phrase be: “chalk this up…” – was this an odd Americanism, an error, or an errant auto-correct?

          • tiptoe39

            Hahahah oh god did I type that? Awright. I will bow out of the conversation on that embarrassing note. Nice chatting with you!

          • Dave

            The idea that American English isn’t as legitimate as British English is to assume that Americans adopted British English and changed it. That is wholly incorrect.

            First of all, English was brought to America by the British. Early Americans (Native Americans excluded) were from Britian. The English language belongs as much to Americans as it does to the British because the two groups got the language from the same place.

            That being said, at the time of the American revolution, there weren’t really definite rules for grammar and writing. Those rules were established separately post-Revolutionary War.

            The American style is often more traditional. For example, many of the spelling differences between American and British English are due to British divergence, i.e. word ending differences such as “-ize”/”-ise” and “-or”/”-our.”

            Same goes for the accent difference, by the way.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Answering this properly would demand a significant amount of research and an even longer reply, however, for starters I’d like to clarify for you, there’s a difference between the ‘English’ and the ‘British’. And also, a difference between what was once English America and once British America. Additionally, less than half of what is America today was ever colonised by the English or the British.

            And for clarity, the country I live in, England, forms part of a broader alliance called the United Kingdom. In fact, ‘The Untied Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ is the name on our passports. ‘England’, ‘Great Britain’, ‘The United Kingdom’ and also ‘The British Isles’ are four distinctly different entities, all of which the English are a significant part.

            I confess, I’ve no idea prior to perhaps researching it, when America actually officially adopted English as their language. What I can say is, however, I might be able to almost agree technically with your phrase “The English language belongs as much to Americans as it does to the British” but I’m not writing to you here as a Briton (although I am one, as well as being English).

            I’m writing to you as an Englishman – and this is not the same thing at all in this context. Part of the problem perhaps, is the use of the term ‘British-English’, a term I personally dislike. I’m OK with fellow Britons using this term but it should be as internal term, not one that should really be used by outsiders, as it may wrongly imply, alternatives such as American-English could be equally valid alternatives.

            For instance, it would be absolutely wrong for you to have written “The English language belongs as much to Americans as it does to the English”! [a subtle but important distinction].

            No, no, no! This now, would not be the case, not at all. In fact, it would be disrespectful of my culture and heritage to the extent that it could reasonably be interpreted as borderline racist. I’ll draw a mild comparison here with the Washington Redskins controversy in terms of the broader use by outsiders of a minority’s cultural identity.

            So please be careful to recognise me as English in this discussion, not British for now, at least not in this context. ‘English’ absolutely does not belong to Americans as much as it does the English – I’m sorry, you’re just plain wrong here. It is my culture, my heritage, whereas for Americans it is merely the language that spawned their different new language.

            Let’s take a look at Australia for a moment. Parallels can be drawn between American settlers and Australian settlers having both originated from what is now the UK and usurping indigenous peoples. Yet, I’ve never heard an Aussie try to lay claim to English as equally theirs. Nor is Australian-English taught, or even recognised, as a language in it’s own right – their official language is English

            I once read there are 33 countries who use English as their official language, yet it seems a uniquely American thing to try to lay claim to it as theirs too. It might be like a Mexican trying to claim to the Spanish language as equally his.

            Americans, at some point, with a guy called Webster I believe, created a new second language; an off-shoot language; a sub-species if you will – American-English.

            Spellings were changed; grammar was altered. As an Englishman I have no claim to it, any more than I would to their pronunciation or accents; except to perhaps point out it was derived from my language.

            Americans took English and altered it, creating the corrupted bastardisation known as American-English. It is an irritation to us, a thorn in our sides, and we do not recognise it as legitimate – except when used strictly inside the USA.

            As an Englishman I’m respectfully telling you – Americans simply do not have equal claim to English. They cannot and must not try to lay equal claim to it. American-English is a partially evolved, different sub-species.

            It’s like comparing Indian elephants with African elephants, except in this case we know which language came first. So if the Aussies chose to form their own version, English would be the common ancestor between Aussie-English and American-English. As parent, English would be the more important relative with American-English merely a sibling/cousin.

          • Dave

            That’s great and all, except all those parts where you’re wrong. For instance, Webster didn’t change the spelling of words. As I said, at the time of the American revolution, the written language was in flux. Many of the spellings Noah Webster included were more prevalent than the ones included in the OED.

            Granted, Webster was a spelling reformer, wanting to do away with unnecessary complexities that caused non-phonetic spelling. This is a matter of logic in my mind, and it is something that I wish could have been done universally within the language. It is something that makes me proud of American English. The idea that words are spelled as they sound is more important to me than is traditional spelling, Latin origins, etc.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            The word colour, as one example, came to the English language from Old French where it was spelt ‘colour’. The French in turn took this word from Latin, where it had been spelt ‘color’. Probably because Latin was used by the church and most historical texts were written by monks, both spellings were once used and considered legitimate, although I might make the argument, the church had always been using the incorrect spelling, as English borrowed the word from Old French, not from Latin.

            There is an article on this site entitled ‘Color vs Colour’, which implies both spellings are acceptable in the USA, but ‘color’ is preferred. I am not sure if this is the case or if I have misunderstood but I am sure, only ‘colour’ is accepted over here nowadays.

            At some point the Latin spelling was dropped – I do not know when. Nor do I know when Webster got to work. Perhaps in America ‘colour’ has never officially been dropped; Webster may have come along before it was officially dropped here perhaps? Maybe Webster reinstated it later. I don’t know which in this example but I don’t think it’s true to say Webster didn’t change other spellings.

            What I can say is these changes happened in English many, many years before the American revolution to which you refer, so if this was Webster’s time, then he came along much, much later. The ise/ize change occurred, probably because the french do not have a ‘Z’ in their language, and the French invaded England in the year 1066, bringing their words, which began to be integrated at least several hundred years before Mr. Webster.

            So there’s little doubt the changes came earlier, it’s just a case of when we officially dropped the alternatives. Either way it seems most likely Webster was, at best, reintroducing rare or archaic spellings but I don’t know for sure.

            As for phonetics, this rather depends upon accent. Personally, I would not pronounce ‘color’ the same way I pronounce ‘colour’, although admittedly ‘colour’ is a learned pronunciation from childhood, rather than what may then have been an intuitive one. After all, don’t we both actually pronounce it ‘kulluh’? Labour/labor is another identical example which springs to mind, I’m sure there are several more.

            However, let’s look at another example, I do not believe ‘centre’ has ever been spelt ‘center’ in original English. I find no evidence, but I cannot be sure here either. If you consider the spelling of ‘central’ then dropping the ‘al’ for an ‘e’ seems entirely logical, whereas changing the ending to ‘er’ doesn’t really (at least not to me). And again, I would also pronounce ‘centre’ and ‘center’ slightly differently, so the logic doesn’t really carry forward here for phonetics either, unless it may happen to suit your particular accent perhaps?

            ‘Theatre’ not ‘theater’, from ‘theatrical’, works in the same way and again I’m sure there are many more. Admittedly there is a pronunciation rule at play again, which is learnt, i.e. to silence the ‘R’ and pronounce ‘tre’ as ‘tuh’, yet, once known it soon becomes intuitive; in the same way you’ve happily learned to pronounce ‘ceiling’ with an ‘S’ sound, I’m sure, i.e. don’t we both say ‘sealing’?

            Notice above, I’ve used the word ‘spelt’, from the Germanic or Saxon word – ‘spelta’. Am I correct in thinking Webster grammatically changed this to spelled, or am I mistaken? To you this may seem an ‘irregular’ form, but this ending is so common here it feels ‘regularised’, e.g. we use learnt not learned; burnt not burned; knelt not kneeled, et cetera, et cetera.

            It is interesting also, you use the logic argument, when from my perspective the changes Webster seems to have made, do not seem logical to me at all. “Logic in my mind” you write – perhaps, to you, but it’s not logical in mine!

            Actually, I don’t think this logic argument stands up anyway, as you wrote: –
            “The idea that words are spelled as they sound is more important to me than is traditional spelling, Latin origins, etc.”
            It is in fact American-English that is preserving the Latin spelling, not the English – ‘labor’ and ‘color’ were the traditional Latin spellings, not phonetic spellings, as they’re pronounced ‘kullah’ and ‘laybuh’.

            For ‘colour’ and ‘labour’ we’ll blame the French, but then, literally thousands of English words came from Old French, too many to count – yet only a few are spelt differently. Often spellings were changed to suit English accents. Nowadays however, when a word is imported, we tend to stick to the both the original foreign spelling and pronunciation, e.g. ‘schadenfreude’ and ‘double-entendre’.

            We could go on to how speech marks (‘) and quotation marks (“) are different here, and how with speech marks the punctuation always comes outside, at the end, whereas in America-English – I presume this was Webster too – they’ve been brought inside. Why? How can it be in any way logical not to end a sentence with a full stop (period to you)?

            I guess my real point is: what seems logical and intuitive to you, only seems that way because it’s what you are used to. To us it merely seems that Webster changed things for the sake of change, as these changes really do not make sense. And to us, he was messing with something that wasn’t actually his to mess with.

            We changed Fall to Autumn and more besides; you changed rubbish to garbage and or trash, and countless others. The two versions of English are evolving and diverging and we’ll just have to accept that – English is still in flux. If not, the only solution, it seems to me, would be to recognise the English as the sole authority on English and do it our way. That’s just not going to happen, is it? And not least because English is ubiquitous, so even if the English and Americans were to agree, who else would?

            My solution is for the English to at least preserve our English, before it goes the way of Latin.

          • Dave

            I’ll read all of that when I get the chance, but for now I’ll point out that most of America (save Boston, Brooklyn, maybe Philadelphia) say “color” as “cuh-ler.” Boston, in particular, is especially known for being non-rhotic.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Yeah, got a bit carried away didn’t I – sorry.

            Your typed pronunciation of “cuh-ler” is making me chuckle heartily though. I can be pretty certain you’d say that completely differently to the way I’m reading it, which imparts upon you a French accent. I guess we should pass on attempting to spell phonetically, seeing as we seem to pronounce English so very differently. Particularly ironic, as it’s my British spelling – colour – which is the Old French derivative.

          • Alan DuMont

            I just refer to American-English as “Earth Standard” and mock everyone who is different. Because.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            That’s made me chuckle and would be OK except, English is English first and had obviously been a functional language to us simple English folk for thousands of years before America even came to be, let alone adopted it – second hand.

            So, if we are to mock one version for being “different”, surely it has to be the version that differed? Seems to me you’re mocking the wrong version – ha ha! Especially as most of the world actually adopts our original as their “standard” rather than the American variant. You’re aware, I hope, American-English is mostly confined to use inside USA – Because!

            Feel free to continue to mock us for now, goodness knows we mock you enough. Bless you, having to choose between Hilary and Donald – no wonder yawl is confoosed!

          • Alan DuMont

            Haha… Yes, I was kidding around. That being said, if we encounter aliens in the near future, they will likely meet either an American or Russian first (if we meet them in space, at least). And since I’m willing to bet everything I own that this will happen within the next week or so, it’s clearly the most relevant argument to consider.

          • Alan DuMont

            Also, screw those lunatics. One of them will likely get into office, but it won’t be from my vote. #JillStein2016

          • Weaky Sneasel

            So, Trump gets in and destroys America; Putin’s ego tries to compete a takes Russia the same way; China continues to emerge and develop it’s space programme and in ten years, when the aliens finally arrive (assuming you’re a little out with your estimate) they get to learn Mandarin. Or, India gets it’s act together and, because they use British-English for their space missions, the space critters get taught British-English after all. Maybe?

          • Alan DuMont

            Maybe! Or maybe Hillary Clinton will win and decide there is something profitable in a North Korean regime change, forcing China to expedite research into orbital war technologies and leading to a similar result! Regardless, America is number one (in military spending and percentage of population that believes in angels) and no one is going to convince me of the truth!

          • Weaky Sneasel

            D’oh! Can’t compete with that one. Americans believe in angels. OK, you win…

          • Green Oak

            How the fuck did we get to this point.

          • Suzanne Wheeler

            This sounds more social issue than language difference. Do I sense animosity toward Americans? Could this animosity spring from not wanting to see America as a world Power? What better way to put down Americans than to insult their use of the English language. I love the English language because it is alive. It changes. Changes are okay to everyone except those who hold to the past.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Well that’s a little embarrassing for you, you made all that effort to read my protracted point and then misinterpreted – never mind! And if you’ve viewed it as an insult then you’ll no doubt do the same with this reply too, unfortunately.

            American-English is not the same as (English) English [or British-English if you prefer]. Any animosity you sense is towards a failure to recognise this and treat American-English as an equally legitimate alternative.

            It’s fine to use American-English, and American variations, inside USA – no problem. Inside the US, American-English is legitimate and it’s fine for Americans to change this language however they may wish.

            If you’re English, as I am, American variations are incorrect. Grey mustn’t be spelt ‘gray’; favourite mustn’t be spelt ‘favorite’; colour mustn’t be spelt ‘color’ et cetera.

            Genuine Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France – American Champagne is not an equal alternative, it is something different. Same principle really.

            So when you defend American-English, be sure to call it American-English. If you simply call it English then you’re talking about the other version – the primary version, not the alternative one.

          • Suzanne Wheeler

            I suppose we could be speaking Latin or some Norse language today if it had not been for Alfred the Great’s defeat of Viking invasions and his having English used as the language for educating the people of England back in the 9th century. Even Alfred, though, would have been shocked to read Chaucer’s English, a far cry from the Anglo-Saxon English Alfred knew, but far closer to our own, Modern English.
            Languages change. It’s what they do no matter how much we want them to remain the same. No single change (American English) makes the language better or worse than another change (Aussie lingo) or yet another, “Spanglish.” Each of these is rooted in the English of Beowulf, but no one would believe it.
            I wonder if Romans of 2 thousand years ago would have been as upset with changes to Latin as English speakers today seem to be upset with American, Australian, Canadian, South African, Nigerian, and other versions of English. What happened to Latin? It died, but not before it changed into French, Italian, and Spanish. Our language is alive and well. I cannot complain about changes that may irk me now (less vs. fewer, amount vs. number, absence of the serial comma, and more) because the very beauty of English is in its use and in its change. Changes make English the living language it is. Let’s celebrate … cheers!

          • Clare Gibert

            Mexican Spanish is a legitimate form on its own, just as much as Castillian Spanish, for example. How bizarre to try to claim one modern form of the original Germanic language is more legitimate than the other. They are evolving forms of a root language that are all in dialectic with the cultures from which they are arising.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Bizarre to identify myself as English, and our language as part of our cultural identity? Why is that bizarre?

            Maybe I’ve not expressed myself successfully enough but for others to claim equal ownership of my English heritage is otherwise known as cultural misappropriation. The point is not that other forms are less legitimate; the point is that English belongs to the English – be careful how you interpret this.

            When we’re talking about right and wrong spelling or grammar, outsiders are only legitimately entitled to input towards their variant forms, i.e. Americans can only revise have a legitimate say in the evolution of American-English. They have no more right to change my English than I would have to tell a Frenchman I want him to spell ‘Paris’ differently. We could choose to spell it ‘Parree’ in our languages because that better reflects their pronunciation, but I’d have no right to ask the French to change their spelling.

            It’s all about recognising English and American-English as separate, variant forms of the language and understanding the two formats are NOT interchangeable. The post you replied to was a carried over discussion from another thread if you’re confused at all, i.e. ‘Grey’ is an English ‘colour’ and ‘Gray’ is an American ‘color’.

            It’s about identifying as English. I am English, are you?

          • Former Span grad

            Dear Weaky Sneasel,

            ‘Spellings were changed; grammar was altered. As an Englishman I have no claim to it, any more than I would to their pronunciation or accents; except to perhaps point out it was derived from my language. Americans took English and altered it, creating the corrupted bastardisation known as American-English.’

            Good show, old boy. Your argument is compelling indeed. But what to do about those traditional elements retained in American English that have been shamefully changed in the UK? You know, those VERY English bits that have go all the way back to the glorious pre-colonial days (before the Empire vitiated its mighty seed by spawning bastards abroad)–why have these changed the UK and not in the US?
            I refer to Americanisms such as:
            -the use of the growling “r” sound in words such as “more” and “mother,” a usage that better resembles Chaucer’s pronunciation than Lord Byron’s.
            -the ‘flat a’ of cat in path, calf, class, which the queen insists on pronouncing with the ‘broad a’ of father.
            -the secondary stress on the second syllable from the end of words like secretary and dictionary (rather than the most abhorrent ‘secret’ry’).
            -the traditional use of the verb ‘guess’ to mean ‘think’ or ‘suppose’ (as in Chaucer’s catch-phrase ‘I gesse’, or “Henry VI”: ‘Not all together; better far, I guess,
            That we do make our entrance several ways.’)
            -(this is my favorite) the differentiated usage of both past participle forms ‘gotten’ and ‘got’ (‘I’ve gotten a cold’ vs ‘I’ve got a cold’) rather than the bastardized usage of ‘got’ for both
            -the proper subjunctive in what grammarians call ‘mandative’ expressions: ‘They insisted that he leave,’ rather than (as one might hear in the UK), ‘that he should leave’ or ‘that he left’.
            -So many good words still used in America that fell out of use in the UK long ago: bub (a boy or fellow), fox-fire, flapjack, molasses, chinch, cordwood, home-spun, burly, catty-cornered (kitty-cornered), likely, deft, copious, scant and ornate, julep, andiron, bay-window, cesspool, clodhopper, cross-purposes, greenhorn, loop-hole, ragamuffin, trash, stock (for cattle), fall (for autumn), offal, din, underpinning, adze, muss (a fight), char (Americans say ‘chore’), whittle, to wilt, to approbate, To loan (in the American sense of to lend), to fellowship (a Christian verb in America).
            -Oh, also you may not realize that your spelling of ‘bastardize’ as ‘bastardise’ and ‘realize’ as ‘realise’ represents something of a bastardization of tradition, given that the spelling with ‘z’ in these and similar words is older than the spelling with ‘s’.

            Why did “your language” have to change so many things that those bastard Americans kept intact?

            Apart from this niggling question, I found your Englishman’s argument laying claim to the English language to be cogently argued and only mildly ungrammatical. (Apart from those inappropriate semicolons, that hyphen in ‘American English’, and that egregious error in ‘a language in it’s own right’, your use of English is quite good).

            Also, congratulations on the Brexit vote. Well done!

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Well, my tongue was slightly in my cheek when I wrote that lot, as I believe was yours in your response. My main point however, which I think got a little lost, was for divergence not convergence. I’m happy my language has evolved and continues to do so. And in time, hopefully, Americans will simply speak ‘American’.

            Really, what I object to is when Grammarly write the likes of: both colour and color are equally correct and we may choose which is appropriate. Please, divergence not convergence. Let’s see the two languages evolve separately and not try to bring us all in to line – Brits will never speak American. And I’m now wondering why I objected to the Brexit vote, as I seem to be making a case for it here.

            Yes, I was fully aware of ‘ize/ise’, I’ll call this evolved. ‘Normalcy’ and ‘burglarized’ are just plain irritating though, it should be appropriate to set light to anyone speaking these words aloud. Please forgive my “it’s”, it’s a habitual error, along with typing “teh” instead of “the” – I do know better but still I keep popping in that apostrophe by mistake.

            Incidentally, I still use ‘flapjack’ (it’s a different item in US though). But of your other examples I’m puzzled. As an Englishman I still regularly use the words: molasses, burly, likely, deft, copious, scant, ornate, bay-window, cesspool, clodhopper, cross-purposes, loop-hole, ragamuffin, stock (for cattle), offal, din, underpinning, whittle, and wilt (I’ve omitted those you cited that I don’t).

          • F Fili

            I think I got now. Just like Donald J. Trump, your name wouldn’t happen to have a J in middle name? I think that the J stands for Jackass.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            How very grown! People in the States will vote for Mr Jackass, and it’s actually possible he may get in. If he does it will largely be down to the level of coherent understanding you’ve just demonstrated. Congratulations on your grasp of the issue under discussion – well done you…

          • Bryan Hann

            Why do you not think it stands for James?

          • Shambles1980TRealOne

            you cant really claim that there was no structured english rules..
            20 years before the war of independance johnson published his english doctionary. and there were some before that but his was rather definitive.

            And the english language was pretty much set down and good to go by 1611 (long prior to that in actuallity, but 1611 is when they translated the king james bible in to modern english) england became prodestant in the late 1500’s and so decided to print the bible which was ready by 1611..
            All the pronounciation of vowels and so on was already set by the mid 1500’s. Its just that in 1611 a very popular book at the time was published cementing it

            so that would mean the english language was fully rulled and structured atleast 50 years before the british ever decided to get on a boat. and a good 20 years before the war of independance every one had johnsons english dictionary..

            Some where after that you all just messed up..
            And A funny thing is. Jelly in an american dictionary means the same thing as a jelly in a british dictionary. but you interperate it as something else.
            you call a tap a faucet.. but if you check an american dictionary for the definition of faucet, it says “see tap”

            So you cant argue that the language wasnt set, because i was.. you just forgot to check your dictionarys.. and it eeems you still forget even to this day.

            im not english im welsh

          • David

            Are you really as stupidly snobbish as you sound? You think people born and raised in America don’t speak real English? Do you think it is still the 18th century? Britain does not export English any longer. British English is not studied around the world from China to Bolivia to Russia, British English is not the language spoken around the world in media and commerce, and British English is certainly not the international language of science or diplomacy. Be proud of your countries history but don’t pretend that it still sets the standard for the world.

          • Beverley Martin


          • vaffangool

            …but I clearly declared it’s use as my personal preference….

            As an attributive adjective, its does not take the apostrophe. The word as you have used it is a contraction of it is. Inapt punctuation qualifies as neither style nor preference.

          • vaffangool

            …but I clearly declared it’s use as my personal preference….

            As an attributive adjective, its does not take the apostrophe. The word as you have used it is a contraction of it is.

            You are consistent in this solecism—to wit:

            I was wrong regarding the technical definition of what the Oxford comma actually is, but not on it’s use – it’s just a style difference.

            Such inapt punctuation qualifies as neither preference nor style. Being a Briton is hardly sufficient qualification for one to wax didactic on the English language.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Excuse me, my good sir, I have a terrible habit of getting trigger happy with the apostrophe, and all too frequently type “it’s” in error, when I mean to use “its” – please accept my humble apologies and consider it a grammatical ‘typo’. I must do better! Though, I’m not sure how a silly error disqualifies me from defending what represents me.

            [Didactic – nice word and well used; a new one for me, thank you].

            You’re correct, being a Briton is not sufficient qualification, but didn’t I also make that same point?

            I made clear I was commenting strictly as a person of English heritage, not as a Briton – the distinction is critical. You are at liberty to disagree with my comments but you are quite wrong to question the validity upon which I defend my culture (or choose how you recognise me).

            I am English!
            English is my culture, my national identity and ethnicity. I’m afraid, yes, actually this does give me voice over my tongue.

          • vaffangool

            You err once again. If you are a Briton, you may be Scots, English, Irish, or Welsh—but if you are English, you are most certainly a Briton. Your mastery of what is ostensibly your native tongue is so consistently abysmal that for you to assert any authority over its use is frankly risible.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            “You err once again” – where so? It seems you have, again, misinterpreted. My words were clear, you’ve just not really grasped the point. I have said I am both English and a Briton, but it is as an Englishman that I speak English. As an Englishman, English is my native tongue – but if merely a Briton, I would be speaking English as an adopted language, as the Scots and Welsh do. The term British English is an inclusive term for them, but it is an offensive term if used by those outside Great Britain.

            To recognise my language as ‘British English’ rather than ‘English’ would be to relegate it to an equal footing with American English. My language is ‘English’. It is the mother tongue; American English isn’t, it’s an off-shoot; a sub-species. Perfectly acceptable, in its place, but only equal in the same way any daughter may sometimes be equal to her mother, i.e. not entirely.

            As for the wonderful ‘Irish’! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! This is now a more interesting discussion. You have just offended a whole nation, or more! The Irish have never been Britons and would be incredulously offended at your ignorance in having included them here. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales – it does not include Ireland and never has.

            Northern Ireland (and prior to 1916, all of Ireland) forms part of the United Kingdom. It is not part of Great Britain and they are, respectfully, not Britons. For example, my passport reads ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. Never call an Irishman – British! This was an ‘abysmal’ faux pas. Hang you head in shame – deary me!!!

          • vaffangool

            According to the 2011 Census of Northern Ireland¹, fully 40% of respondents selected British as their exclusive national identity. As a primary- or secondary national identity, a whopping 48% of respondents selected British. Among Protestant respondents 83.1% identified as British; among Catholic respondents, a substantial 13.7% identified as British. That’s hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of ethnically- and/or demonymically Irish persons who self-identify as British.

            These results were keenly reported on the BBC², in the Guardian³, and in the Independent⁴, among many other widely-available sources against which you can compare your fantastical interpretation of reality. You really are running out of excuses for your unrelenting ineptitude.

            ¹ http://www.nisra.gov.uk/Census/key_stats_bulletin_2011.pdf
            ² http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-20673534
            ³ https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/dec/11/2011-census-northern-ireland-religion-identity

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Wow! That’s really interesting. Almost half of Northern Irish idnetify as being British, despite Northern Ireland not being part of Great Britain. Still, more than half of them don’t! And, neither do the Irish south of the border (You only specified “Irish” previously”.

            I’m about to go on holiday so don’t have the time to post sources foryou, but seeing as you clearl like to do this research, why don’t you also check for evidence whst constituted Britain for both our sakes. What you will find is that Great Britan consists of England, Scotland and Wales, and not Ireland or Nothern Ireland.

            In your defence, it isn’t an uncommon mistake, even amongst all British. But this common error still doesn’t male Northern Ireland part of Great Britain. What you’ve identified is evidence of error, not evidence of fact. Facinating though – nice one.

          • vaffangool

            So you would declare the self-selected national identities of over 850,000 residents of Northern Ireland to have been in error? You understand that British was a legitimate option provided by NISRA on the census form, right? It’s not like declaring Jedi Knight as your religion.

          • Susie Margaret Ross

            no — NOT “it’s” as possessive — should be “its”

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Yes, thank you, you’re correct; somewhere I’ve typed “it’s” when I should have typed “its”. Several people have pointed this out but I can’t find where I’ve made the mistake in order to correct it.

          • Susie Margaret Ross

            at your comment from five months ago that begins with “i have inferred” — actually, it appears several places, but what the heck —

      • DeGriffe

        The comma between two nouns can be vital. Note the difference between “I like liver, and ice cream,” and, “I like liver and ice cream.”

        • tiptoe39

          That is not a grammatically correct comma. Not every confusing sentence is an ungrammatical one; not every insertion of a comma creates a correct sentence.

          • DeGriffe

            Yes, tiptoe39, it is. Your logic is faulty.

          • tiptoe39

            http://theeditorsblog.net/2011/01/13/finding-commas-in-all-the-wrong-places/ Don’t use commas to separate two nouns or noun phrases in a compound object.

            Don’t put a comma between the two nouns, noun phrases, or noun clauses in a compound subject or compound object.

            Don’t separate two nouns in a compound subject, or two objects, with a
            comma. There can be more than one subject or object in a sentence.

            Please see the examples in any of these posts. Your sourcing is faulty.

          • DeGriffe

            I find myself in agreement with all of the posts you’ve referenced.

            In particular,

            “Commas are used to separate words and phrases into chunks of information that make sense to the reader. Correct use of commas allows the reader to take in the information without pause. Incorrect use of commas can cause confusion or even a misreading of the information.” – theeditorsblog.net

            “Use commas wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading.” – owl.english.purdue.edu

            “Keep in mind, though, that occasionally the serial comma is necessary for clarity.” – http://www.grammarly.com

            In short, communication with clarity and precision is the entire point of good grammar. If a person reads rules of grammar and finds himself persuaded that the rules are to be applied without regard to his readers’ understanding, he is hopelessly obtuse, and can receive no value from instruction; therefore, none further will be given.

          • David

            You honestly think putting a comma before the only ‘and’ in the sentence is clarifying communication? Your original sentence was badly phrased. It should have been “I like liver and I like ice cream.” Adding a comma wherever you feel like it can not be justified simply by saying it is better communication in your opinion. I think if you sleep on this and think about it more, you will come to the same conclusion.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            I have inferred from your (apparently) deleted comment you have not understood this difference, but ‘English’ is my cultural identity; ‘British-English’ is not. The ‘English’ language is an integral part of that identity; of who I am. Does it help if I write: ‘English’ is an adjective relating to England, it’s people or language. ‘British-English’ and ‘American-English’, on the other hand, are nouns, relating to a language only.

            I hope you understand your comment was misplaced, as it related to the nouns only. You also appeared not to have recognised the difference between ‘the English’ and ‘the British’; we are not the same, although I do happen to be both.

            I see no difference in what you wrote, from a Washington Redskins fan saying to a Native American, ‘This feathered head-dress is part of my American football team’s iconography and I have as much right to wear it as you’. I hope you would not agree with the fan.

          • Susie Margaret Ross

            “it’s people or language”? do you mean “it is people or language” or (possessive) “its people or language”?

          • Sharlene Schoenhardt

            Your new example sentence, “I like liver, and I like ice cream.” would have a comma because it is two independent phrases joined by a conjunction.

          • elliefrost

            No. Only when you list things like; “I like liver, ice-cream, and soda” is a comma needed.

          • Sharlene Schoenhardt

            When things are in a list is completely different from what I was saying in response to David. He was saying that a comma would not be needed between the two independent phrases, but it is. When it is in a list, yes, you would use the oxford comma. Two completely different situations and two completely different rules.

          • elliefrost

            The word “and” is all that is needed. Look it up.

          • Sharlene Schoenhardt

            I’m an English professor, I know the grammar rules, maybe you should check out independent clauses and phrases when using commas.

          • BourbonAndCoke

            “I’m an English professor.” That is unfortunate, since your post should have read, “I’m an English professor. I know the grammar rules. Maybe…” Periods are pretty important too.

          • Sharlene Schoenhardt

            only when they are necessary, commas can function similarly and still make the sentence work as it was written.

          • BourbonAndCoke

            Your comment had three sentences with one period. You must be a professor of some kind of “New English” method of which I’m not aware.

          • Iowan

            Sharlene apparently doesn’t believe in capitalization either.

          • Rafagon

            Sharlene is in serious need of a refresher course in English grammar.

          • LeRoy_White


          • Bad Hombres

            Your English is terrible.

          • linda moggio

            Sentences begin with capitalization, Ms. Schoenhardt. We’re noticing everything here.

          • elliefrost

            Did I dispute commas in independent clauses? No. I did not.

          • Kyle Gee

            I did look it up in my college-level business English textbook – Sharlene is correct. A coordinating conjunction (and, but, yet, nor, etc) gets a comma.

          • elliefrost

            “Serial comma. … In English language punctuation, a serial comma or series comma (also called an Oxford comma or a Harvard comma) is a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction (usually and or or) in a series of three or more terms.” Note before. I think you are talking about separating clauses. I used to teach English.

          • Peggy Kelly

            “Ice cream” is not hyphenated. Holy cow! We are trying to focus on commas.

          • elliefrost

            You’re right of course of course. My mistake.

          • linda moggio

            Yes, Ellefrost is completely-right.

          • Kyle Gee

            It would have a semicolon because it joins 2 independent clauses.

          • mkevinf

            But the subject of each clause is the same. Therefore, no comma is needed.

          • Matthew Drollinger

            How about: ” I like cookies and cream ice cream.” Oh dear! Do I like cookies while liking cream ice cream? Do I like a particular flavor of ice cream? The world may never know. A comma is definitely not the answer here.

          • elliefrost

            Absolutely no need for a comma in that sentence.

          • mike

            In the example shown, the comma makes the difference between a somewhat unappetizing meal and a dish that makes me want to wretch.

        • I might be wrong, but in these two sentences, the words “liver” and “ice” have different functions:

          In “I like liver, and ice cream”, it is clear that “liver” is a simple noun, but “ice”, although indeed a noun, belongs to “cream”, taking on the function of an adjective.

          However, in “I like liver and ice cream”, you connect both “liver” and “ice” to “cream”, so now they both have an adjective function, relating to “cream”.

          Isn’t that so? This is what my weirdo Hungarian logic says 🙂 – but is it different in English?

          • EVula

            Not really, because “ice” in this instance isn’t really a standalone word (or an adjective); we’re not talking about “liver” and “ice” and “cream,” we’re talking about “liver” and “ice cream.” There are only two nouns in the sentence (one of them just happens to be two words). As a result, a comma after “liver” is incorrect, as there’s no grammatical (or logical) reason to separate “liver” from “ice cream.”

          • Jacob Theunisz

            In other languages, such as Dutch, “ice cream” is one word. I have never quite understood why in English it should be two. However, confusion could still arise if you write: “I like liver and liquorice ice-cream”. Here I would use a comma, although that might not qualify as an Oxford comma. I agree with DeGriffe that comma’s should be used to avoid confusion. The argument that not all confusion can be avoided this way, is no argument at all. Firemen cannot extinguish every fire, but that is no reason for them not to try.

          • BourbonAndCoke


          • Shannon D Gardiner

            “I like liver and liquorice ice-cream.” means that you like liver and also like liquorice flavored ice cream, by putting the “and” after liver you are declaring that there are only 2 nouns and that anything between the “and” and the last noun relates to that noun some way, that is also why ice cream works as two separate words because it is cream that has been iced (frozen while being churned) but it does make it confusing for people learning English as an additional language.

            If you want to say I like liver and liquorice and ice cream then the “and” needs to go before the last noun (and any other words describing it) so it should read: I like liver, liquorice and ice cream. Once again no need for a comma before the “and”.

          • Thank you for the explanation.
            Well, this seems to remain one of the mysteries of the English language where I will have to find the logic one day… 🙂
            For me, 1 noun = 1 word, 2 nouns = 2 words.

            There must be some rule of why do you have for example strawberry, raspberry, blueberry etc, each of them ONE compound noun, but ice cream, hand cream, foot cream, wrinkle cream etc, each nouns are TWO words.

            But in both cases, it is 2 nouns put together and the first one modifies the meaning of the second one – hence the function of an adjective.

            This is the logic in the other, almost 10 European languages I understand, the two words will either become one, or the modifying word will become and adjective, also grammatically.

            But in English, it is apparently totally different.

            Is there any rule where you know when will 2 such words count as 1? And when do you have to write them as actually 1 word?

          • EVula

            As a native English-speaker, I wish you much luck on trying to understand the logic behind English. 😉

            I honestly have no clue why some words are compounded like strawberry and raspberry; they are clearly individual types of berries. Those names aren’t even particularly descriptive; “blueberry” is indeed a blue berry, sure, but it’s not like a “strawberry” is a straw berry, and a “raspberry” certainly isn’t a berry that looks, tastes, or seems like a rasp.

            You’re also correct about the two-word nouns; that first word does indeed serve the function of an adjective (“ice cream” and “hand cream” both being two different types of cream, even though conceptually those are very, VERY different things), but it’s still treated as a single concept. *Why* is it treated that way? No clue. It’s probably just a lazy evolution of the words in question: I’d assume that “ice cream” was originally “iced cream,” and over time the significance of “iced” was dropped, so that “ice cream” eventually became the proper name for the treat.

          • Haha, thank you! Not that in my darling Hungarian we don’t have anything illogical 🙂

            Your idea about “iced cream” would make sense.

          • Shambles1980TRealOne

            you could say, i like both liver and ice cream.
            And if i you are feeling overly crytical you can even go ahead and hyphen it.
            “I like both liver and ice-cream”
            you dont use a comma because its only 2 items so the “and” is more than adequate..
            you will be hard pushed to see ice cream hyphend however because if it was 2 nouns it would have a comma or “and” seperating them, so in that instance it would be:

            “I like liver, ice and cream”
            or with the oxford comma
            “I like liver, ice, and cream” (the oxford comma can only be used in a list of 3 or more items btw)
            both of those read the same with or without the comma however so its utterly pointless.

            you also have other ways of saying it such as
            I like ice, liver and cream.
            I like cream, ice and liver.

            Someways you would be more inclined to use that extra comma.. But you shouldnt arange the words in a manner that would be easier to understan if you add an extra comma..
            that really is just throwing in commas just for the sake of it,

            Now if you were to say something like..
            There are noble gasses, noble metals, gold, platinum, silver and iron; that are…

            even that does not need a oxford comma, because if you were listing the boble metals rather than individual specifics you would have used a colon.. And listed it diferently..
            You may argue that Using a oxford comma would mean less people assume you are listing noble metals. and so yu will get less people complaining that ron isnt noble..
            But if you were listing them you would have said something like:
            “There is iron, noble gasses and noble metals: gold, platinum and silver; that are.. ”
            Again adding the oxford comma results in it reading the same as it does without it.

          • Ryan Walters

            I’m not trying to be a jerk, but a strawberry isn’t a berry. It’s an aggregate fruit. Just food for thought, lol. I thought it was interesting. Cheers.

        • Shannon D Gardiner

          I like liver and ice cream makes complete since without a comma, anyone would assume you mean separately if you like liver with ice cream there are lots of altunritives to and you can use to make your unusual statement much more clearly understood.

          • Dennis Flax

            So, you don’t have Liver and Ice flavored cream at your grocery? It is delicious.

        • Josh O’Bryan

          Just add the word ‘both’ before liver. Don’t use bad grammar.

        • John Galt

          If I needed to clarify whether “liver and ice cream” should be taken as a group, I’d say “I like liver, and I like ice cream.” Merely inserting the comma (or a pause when spoken) is not sufficient to disambiguate these cases, and unfortunately the Oxford comma, by definition, does not apply to a list of only two items (though its absence does serve to tell the reader, if not the listener, that Weaky’s example contains only two items).

        • Kyle Gee

          If you ate them simultaneously, I think it would be “liver with ice cream”. (A sundae with a cherry on top.)

        • linda moggio

          I feel as if I can live a long life and not come upon such an improbable sentence to prove the worth of the Oxford comma. You need a better example.

        • Wouldn’t it be less confusing if it would be written Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars? Capitalizing all words of the name of the song/album/band shows it as a “single item in the list”.

      • Shannon D Gardiner

        “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” as a single object, and “Tom and Jerry” are both titles of things, therefore that needs to be shown either with italics, or quotation marks, not everyone knows “Tom and Jerry” is the name of a cartoon and that “Ziggy Stardust and the Spirders from Mars” is David Bowie and his band so there is a grammatical need to package them together for clarity but even if you sentence is: He is well known for being a fan of Charlie Chaplin, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spirders from Mars” and “Tom and Jerry”. it still doesn’t need a Oxford comma although a better order of the list would make it a better sentence.

        • Sorry, down below I see I just made the point that you made.

          One question, though. Is “Tom and Jerry” the title of a thing or the names of the two main characters of those cartoons? Would we say “Tom and Jerry” to refer to the cartoons as a group? I don’t think we would do that with The Three Stooges or “Star Wars”; wouldn’t we say “the `Star Wars’ movies” or “the Three Stooges movies”? Maybe one of the cartoons is titled “Tom and Jerry”, but I bet when someone says he likes Tom and Jerry he isn’t referring to just that one cartoon (or, for that matter, the earlier incarnation of Simon and Garfunkel).

      • Just_sayin

        I would write it as “I love both Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Tom and Jerry”. Using the word ‘both’ prepares the reader for two items.

      • Andrew F. Martz

        I like Jerry Lewis, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Tom and Jerry.

      • Thom Pegg

        Do any of you people have lives, hobbies, and/or other interests? Oxford comma forever!!!

        • Thom Pegg

          Actually, it should be called the Roxford Comma because it flippin’ rox! All other commas bow down before. Literally.

    • Nick Harman

      Never mind the Oxford comma, what about Weaky’s final sentence?

      ‘With it’s beautiful and essential Oxford comma.’


      Best get the basics right before moving on to the trickier stuff. Did no one else notice? Worrying.

      • Weaky Sneasel

        Thank you, I’d missed that.

        Far worse than this – I sent an e-mail the other day using you’re instead of your. It’s more of a ‘typo’ however, I just got a little trigger happy with the apostrophe key. No excuses though – a mistake is a mistake.

        • Nick Harman

          Anyway, should you ever find an Oxford comma is needed for clarity just rewrite the sentence properly.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            I would absolutely agree, rewriting should always be your first option, but that’s fudging the issue slightly, and why I gave an example, which couldn’t be rewritten. Besides, when punctuating a verbal quotation, in order to correctly convey to the reader what was said, cannot involve restructuring, or you’re no longer quoting.

            When you can’t restructure, the Oxford comma is: sometimes essential; sometimes irrelevant – but never incorrect, so, if in doubt, the rule should be to put it in rather than risk misinterpretation. Leaving it out will never improve the understanding; it will only ever risk foul, so why leave it out? It’s just laziness.

            If you’d like to provide me with an example where use of it detracts (I’ve given examples of where omission causes a problem) I’d be pleased to see it; otherwise I stay with my point – be consistent and keep it in.

          • Nick Harman

            I would move heaven and earth to avoid it. Apart from anything else it offends the cultured eye as well as taste and decency. If the quote was written in the first place, fine, the inverted commas make it clear it was the original writer’s fault, not mine. If I was writing down what I’d heard, I’d change it. Rarely do we write down what someone says verbatim, after all.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            “…it offends the cultured eye”.

            OK, so – ‘Recognisable 70s icons include Batman and Robin, Simon and Garfunkel and Tom and Jerry’.

            To see this example written without the appropriate Oxford comma, it is my sensibilities which are offended. And, had the groupings not been icons and instantly recognisable, it would have been tricky to decipher and would have required a double or triple take. Would my kids have asked “Who are…”

            I mean – if we were constructing rather than quoting it, we could have ended, ‘…the intrepid duo “Batman and Robin”‘, or such like, but it would depend on context as to whether this was appropriate.

            Perhaps another way to think of it is for lists where semicolons are needed. I suggest it would barely make sense if we leave a semicolon out of this one: –

            – Other icons include Mary, Mungo, and Midge; Alvin, Simon, and Theodore; and Huey, Duey, and Louie.

            You’d agree the final semicolon must stay, so why not the Oxford commas – what’s the difference? Are they not doing the same job or do we need to start discussing the ‘Oxford semicolon’ now?

            Granted – we do agree, re-writing is always preferable; where possible. But I’d rather see others use the Oxford comma than to leave it out, where including it would have made their work clear yet omitting it out has confused things.

            Besides, I use it to be cantankerous.

          • Nich

            Just as “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.” can imply that your parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty; “I love my mother, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty.” could still imply that your mother is Lady Gaga.


            Assuming that the sentence itself is written correctly, “Recognizable 70s icons include Batman and Robin, Simon and Garfunkel and Tom and Jerry” is not technically difficult to decipher. The assumption should be if Simon, Garfunkel, and Tom or Garfunkel, Tom and Jerry where groupings then they would have been written as such. A better example of your point in that case would be something like:

            ‘Last night I watched the movies Jack and Jill, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and Mac and Me.’

            Putting a comma after Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice would help make the pairings more clear, but that’s only because the title of the movie itself is grammatically incorrect. For instance:

            We had fun. playing a concert in the park last night.

            The fact that the band has chosen to make the correct spelling of their name in lowercase and with a period does not itself make the sentence grammatically incorrect, even though someone who is not familiar with fun.’s naming conventions could easily be confused. I’m sure there are thousands of ways to name your band, movie, book, etc that would confound all manner of grammatical conventions.

            Honestly, I’ve never cared much one way or the other for or against the Oxford comma. I’m much more frustrated that we can’t seem to just pick one and “Get on with it!”

          • Weaky Sneasel

            OK thanks, now I’m lost completely. I guess that’s the point though?
            What are your groupings? I’m not familiar with any of them. Is it: –
            ‘Ted & Alice’, and also ‘Mac & me’, and also ‘Bob & Carol’?
            ‘Alice & Mac & Me’, and also ‘Bob & Carol & Ted’?
            ‘Mac & Me’, and also ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’?

            And is the band called ‘We had fun’ ?
            or is it just called ‘fun’?

            To be honest, all I care about is that I’ve understood what the writer intended me to understand. If not, the writer hasn’t done a good job [written believing your examples are intended for the reader to be confused, to make your point, so not intending it as a dig at you].

            Sometimes, not using the Oxford comma can confuse – as you’ve just shown very well – whereas, using it usually only ever makes things clearer, or at worst, no worse.
            [by the way, I think I changed ‘parents’ to ‘mother’ to show it doesn’t always work].

            Most of the time it’s clear either way so just doesn’t matter – Oxford comma or not.

            But using it seems to irritate those who dislike it for no good reason. And for me, that’s actually a more than good enough reason to use it all the more!

          • Nich

            More answering to make sure I alleviate the confusion than to try and harp on any particular point any more than I already have; the movie titles are all real movies:

            Jack and Jill
            Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
            Mac and Me

            Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice definitely makes a stronger argument for an Oxford comma making the list easier to read, my point was just that it’s only really helpful because the movie title itself is confusing. If it were titled Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice, then we would upgrade to semicolons and be done with it. And as you said previously, rewriting it to make it less confusing is step one. If we make the list Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, Jack and Jill and Mac and Me; then for the most part we’re back to the same argument of the comma making it somewhat more legible but still not being completely necessary. I guess that’s why this debate always seems to go around in circles and doesn’t really change.

            Oh, and that band officially spells its name as


            though plenty of people at least capitalize it in order to enforce that it is a proper noun.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Another solution is to make use of the ampersand. I don’t know the movie but I’m guessing it could be called ‘Bob & Carrol and Ted & Alice’? Assuming it’s a film about two couples. Tom & Jerry and Batman & Robin etc.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            Ah-ha! I’ve just been writing a sentence where I believe it’s somewhat critical, so I’ll share it: –

            ‘The English guy and the Polish girl are both very clean and tidy, and friendly too’.

            – It’s critical information to link ‘very’ to both ‘clean’ and to ‘tidy’, not to mention highly desirable to retain ‘clean and tidy’ as a compound pair.
            – I don’t necessarily want to link ‘friendly’ to ‘very’ and the comma cleanly and successfully separates them.
            – I want to express ‘friendly’ as an afterthought, not my initial adjective.
            – It would need a more cumbersome expansion or an additional sentence to otherwise express ‘friendly’, and like this expresses exactly what I want to convey both clearly and succinctly, and correctly I believe [Ooh, there it is again].

            I also read this http://theeditorsblog.net/2011, which was quoted above, and although not directly about the Oxford comma, it is the clearest article on commas I’ve read and repeatedly uses an Oxford comma.

          • Nick Harman

            You use guy when in fact we English men are ‘chaps’ if well-bred or ‘blokes’ if not, but she is referred to as a girl. Is she a lot younger than the guy? Should we be concerned and contact the authorities? There are a lot of young Eastern European girls said to be working unwillingly in the sex trade.

            Anyway, why is friendly an afterthought? Does being clean and tidy usually prevent someone being friendly? Why not just say this interesting couple are clean, tidy and friendly? Very clean and tidy sounds like they might have OCD by the way.

            Overall I really don’t think you are giving them much of a reference.

            In any case that Oxford comma makes me want to scoop out both my eyes with a rusty teaspoon.

          • Weaky Sneasel

            This made me chuckle and it’s interesting how you have misinterpreted the context – perhaps mischievously – in a way this particular reader would not have. Let me explain for your amusement too perhaps.

            I used ‘guy’ because I was writing to a French girl for whom I considered ‘bloke’ and ‘chap’, colloquialisms she may not be familiar with, so consciously selected ‘guy’ for her. It will be her first time in England, where she has a posting as a French teacher to help improve her accent.

            I own an HMO and she is a prospective tenant. At 49 years old I consider a 23-year-old a girl. It could be considered patronising perhaps but I felt, using ‘woman’ may have wrongly implied she was around my age. I wanted her to infer the Polish occupant was female, and near to her age. Using ‘girl’, I think achieves this.

            Interestingly, applicants frequently describe themselves – jokingly I presume – as OCD. In this context, it is a recognised way of them telling me they’ll look after my property, but also, they expect this from their potential cohabitants. So yes, she actually claimed to be OCD as a means of gleaning how ‘clean and tidy’ the other tenants may be.

            While it will be important to her that the people she would be sharing with will be clean and tidy, the majority of tenants, including this English guy, tend to stay in their room when at home. So, she’ll not see too much of him and this had already been described to her. It was an afterthought that he is ‘friendly too’, very much secondary to ‘clean and tidy’.

            So, in context, the two are accurately and succinctly, and also flatteringly described [there is is again] as ‘…very clean and tidy, and friendly too’.

            I don’t think I can do away with the Oxford comma here, it’s a good sentence, not in need of rewriting, which doesn’t quite work without it.

            I get how you feel, though, not so much with this one, but with text spellings and spelling reformers etc… And, please be careful with those spoons!

          • spandeau

            I hate to be a stickler, but there should be a comma before ‘just’ as this is a conditional sentence.

          • Nick Harman

            Yes but that’s what we used to employ subs for – they couldn’t write the articles but they sure were good at correcting them. Of course in the real world no one cared, so they all got made redundant.

          • spandeau

            Seems we all like being a sub now and again.

    • Emma Roddick

      I agree with you, but the “its” in your final sentence shouldn’t have an apostrophe.

      • Weaky Sneasel

        I know! I got trigger happy with my ‘ key and then didn’t edit it out; have done now though.

        • Emma Roddick

          Haha. Great!

    • spandeau

      English grammar isn’t perfect, nothing is. Punctuation rules allow you to express yourself in whichever way you desire, and even so there are quirks such as the (mis)use of commas. So, by all means use the Oxford comma, but don’t stress too much as to whether people will misconstrue ‘I like liver and ice cream’ as this is a misnomer since nobody [you want to meet] would mistakenly picture the two together in the same bowl; then again, has anyone ever collocated ‘liver’ and ‘ice cream’?

      Incidentally, some have expressed disdain (or at least distaste) for use of the the Oxford comma in a non-serial sentence (i.e. two nouns/noun clauses), for example: “I like liver, and ice cream.” In this case, there is a possible exception wherein the speaker wishes to stress that they like both liver and ice cream, not only ice cream:

      A: “Hey, I thought you said you liked liver, but you hated ice cream.”
      B: “No no, you misunderstood. I like liver, AND ice cream. I just don’t like them together.”

      Not only is the word ‘and’ stressed, the speaker might be adding a spoken pause which is shown by the comma. However, having said all that, as another comment suggested, we can simply include the word ‘both’ to the same effect:

      B: “… . I like both liver and ice cream.”

      • Weaky Sneasel

        For the record – the ‘liver and ice-cream’ comment was made by someone else so I’m not sure why you replied to me; it wasn’t even an Oxford comma anyway. As for ‘stress’: some commenters are clearly highly irritated by its use. My comments on it have been related to how, sometimes, it’s needed. So if we’re going to have it only one way or another, we should put it in. After quite some time, I eventually came up with increasingly better examples of when it is definitely needed, but none where it caused confusion when it was used. All the arguments against seem to be the same, i.e. the writer just didn’t like it – nothing constructive.

        In other words: I’d like to encourage people to make what they write clear, and the Oxford comma only ever helps. It’s a tiny technical issue that rarely causes confusion when left out but it cannot always be left out. It could however, always be put in.

        • spandeau

          Yes, I know. My apologies, I wasn’t intentionally replying directly to you, more to the thread as a whole. I’ve edited my first comment to try to reflect this. True, the liver/ice cream example doesn’t use the Oxford comma, but I referenced it as many had conflated the two. I’m actually on your side, as-it-were, in that grammar-sticklers are abound, yet the writer has the power to make an informed choice. Edge cases (liver-ice-cream-gate) are often purposely made confusing by people to push an almost political punctuation point, when it needn’t be the case. Clarity is key, and can be achieved in many ways, as you suggested.

    • If I may jump in for a detour from the linguistic flame war occurring in this thread, can I just make one point?

      Isn’t “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars” the title of an album? If correct punctuation were used, either quotation marks, underlining, or italics, it would be obvious to everyone that Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars are not independent items in a list but components of the title. Hence, no confusion.

      It seems odd to insist on the use of incorrect punctuation as part of one’s argument in a debate about punctuation.

      • Weaky Sneasel

        Actually, ‘The Spiders from Mars’ were David Bowie’s backing group for his persona, Ziggy Stardust – I believe the album name is: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

        To be honest, this comma rarely matters either way, but all the arguments I’ve seen made against it are non-constructive and made because people just don’t like it; they’re not made because omitting it aids understanding. My main objective was to pull the chain!

        What’s important is that any message is unambiguous or the sentence should be rewritten. Sometimes simply adding this comma does the trick, quite succinctly. I did post a much better example later on – somewhere – something about being clean and tidy, and friendly…

        • Ah, interesting. I was never much of a Bowie fan. That does change things, because if it’s the name of a band then it wouldn’t get quotation marks, any more than we would do if we were talking about The Beatles or the Grateful Dead.

    • keypingitreal

      You lost my interest at “always” in sentence one.

      • Weaky Sneasel

        Using “always” was intended to irk (for a reaction). Very briefly though, sometimes it can’t be left out (there are better examples later on) but it never changes the meaning if used. And the point was, one rule might be better than just ‘see how you feel’ Have a nice day!

    • Brett A. Wheeler

      Italicize or use quotes: I like “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars”, and “Tom and Jerry”. Case solved. “Tom and Jerry” is a TV show, and “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars” is the name of an album, and thus they are not a list of objects, and should be noted as such.

      • Weaky Sneasel

        Good point, well made, and this would work as an alternative for this example, but actually, it wouldn’t always work. The correct thing to then have done would have been to capitalise the entire noun – to show it as a single item – e.g. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as opposed to ‘Harry Potter and the deathly hallows’.

        What about this? Fred typically has sandwich fillings like: corned beef and tomato, cheese and onion, and Yorkshire ham with mustard crumb.

        You wouldn’t want to put the fillings in quotation marks as the elements don’t necessarily belong together. Similarly, you’d not want to capitalise like this: Corned Beef and Tomato, Cheese and Onion… – remember: we’re not quoting from a menu (where you could capitalise them as nouns) we’re simply describing his sandwich fillings and need to identify which item goes in which sandwich.

        And what if I were to add some beetroot and gherkins!

        Corned beef, beetroot and tomato; cheese, onion and gherkin; and Yorkshire ham with mustard crumb. Note how I’ve now needed to utilise the semi-colon, in order to show that ‘corned beef, beetroot and tomato’ [I’m now quoting myself, hence my introduction of inverted commas] is one sandwich filling and not two (i.e. not: a corned beef sandwich followed by a beetroot and tomato sandwich).

        The reason I’ve introduced this example is to point out that I doubt anybody would try to argue, now I’ve gone with semi-colons, that the one used at ‘… gherkin; and…’ is not necessary to my punctuation. Yet, it is playing exactly the same roll as the Oxford comma was previously. If the semi-colon is needed in the latter sentence, why must the comma be dispensed with in the former?

        Just to clarify my position: I don’t think it often matters either way, but occasionally it does. So, I do think, if we are going to insist it is either always in or always out – then ‘always in’ is the only viable option [the original piece was arguing for scrapping it].

    • +1

    • Physicsonboard

      Ham and Cheese sandwich
      Ham, and Cheese sandwich
      (from Strunk and White)

      • Weaky Sneasel

        Good question!
        It would be a ham and cheese sandwich! Two items does not constitute a list, so ham is happily paired with cheese, in this instance. It’s not a ham and a cheese sandwich (two sandwiches) but one cheese sandwich with ham in – a ‘ham and cheese sandwich’.

        No capitals are required either, unless (instead of describing the sandwich) you are specifically ordering the Ham and Cheese Sandwich; in which case ‘Sandwich’ also requires capitalising.

        If it were, say, a chicken, ham, and cheese sandwich; this is where the controversy enters.

        To clarify once more – It is not necessary to have the comma after ham, but it IS necessary NOT to have a rule that this comma must be removed. It usually makes no difference but very occasionally it can be crucial. So, the choice must either be to ‘always use the Oxford comma’ or to ‘choose to use or omit it’ – but a rule to ‘never use it’ cannot be an option. Sometime it needs to be there!

  • Oliver Kress

    fuck the oxford comma

  • Rachael Hare

    I’m unsure if I’m opening myself up to criticism or not, however, I was always taught (early 80’s secondary education) never to use a comma before the word ‘and’. So definitive was this rule, I didn’t realise that there was an alternative, certainly the words ‘Oxford comma’ were never uttered by my teachers.

    • Weaky Sneasel

      Me too, exactly the same! But, I often came across instances where I felt things were unclear and thought a comma was needed, so when I discovered the Oxford comma I realised it seemed to solve the problem. I’ve yet to come across an instance where it makes things worse, it usually makes no difference, and it frequently helps. For me it’s a no-brainer!

  • pennyhammack

    Growing up I was taught to always use the Oxford comma. In college, many years later, my Business Writing teacher said we should never use it and I had to force myself to eliminate it. Now Grammarly wants it back. I personally believe that anything that makes writing more readable should be used be it comma, semi-colon, colon, or exclamation point.

  • Gokul Suresh

    Just curious. Was the Oxford comma commonly used earlier? Or is it a style introduced in the recent years?

  • Francisco Vianna

    In the mentioned example: “Bring me a pencil, eraser and notebook”, the way the phrase is written is unappropriate. One can write: “Bring me pencil, eraser and notebook” (with or withouth the Oxiford comma) or otherwise “Bring me a pencil, an eraser anda a notebook” (the same regarded to Oxiford comma)… Am I wrong?

  • John Luciano

    I have always used the Oxford comma and really most of life thought that was just the correct way to punctuate. Moreover, it makes more logical sense to me personally. I don’t understand why the last two items in a list don’t need a comma. It’s unnatural to me. Unfortunately, I have found, especially nowadays, that I am in the extreme minority. Especially in writings in my profession as well as in news stories online it seems the oxford comma is almost always omitted. I almost feel like I’m going against the rules by using it.

  • Jason M

    Yes, you could restructure the example to ‘I love Lady Gaga, Humpty Dumpty and my parents’, however, I love my parents primarily, far more so than I love Lady Gaga or Humpty Dumpty.

    I want to express that in order of expression. They are loved first, not second, nor third.

    Artistic license isn’t just for poetry, and besides, what is the point of dogmatically sticking to traditional grammar if nobody can make sense of it?

    I love the smell of cheese and grass.

    I love the smell of cheese, and grass.

    If you want to be a stickler about grammatical clarity, it would be proper to say ‘I love the smells of cheese and grass’. But honestly, language without nuance and flair – language that is unwaveringly by the book – is boring. Readers hate boring.

  • Velocitor

    Easier to write a comma than completely rephrase a sentence.

  • alboy2

    I was taught (many, many years ago) to omit the comma if it preceded the word “and”. I can certainly see there are instances where it would clear up ambiguity or prevent confusion, but like so many rules of English grammar, it’s really up to the writer. Let the reader beware!

  • npbinni

    And here I was thinking that it was a twenty-something year old American invention.

  • Alon Sandler

    The problem with you English speakers is that you think of “and” as a word of its own, and not a suffix to the word following it.

    The Oxford comma is useless, a skillfull use of “and”s can solve any ambiguity. Having a comma before an “and” is just bad style and makes for bad pace in reading.

    In some leangues it’s not allowed

    • Rense Haveman

      In Dutch, for example. But hey, we don’t have an Oxford, so why would we need an Oxford comma?

  • Melissa Cooper

    Ack! Get a room, you two!

  • jun avecilla mendoza

    i always use the oxford comma…can’t imagine writing “peacefully” and with confidence without it ! 🙂

  • elliefrost

    These posts are silly. I learned and taught this in grammar school.

  • Loribeth12464

    They can have my Oxford comma when they pry it from my cold, dead, and lifeless hands.

  • Gosh, what an issue, if I read the comments! Can’t you people make it more complicated? 🙂

    I am Hungarian, and English is my second language, so sometimes I would use British, other times American English.

    With these commas, it boils down to one question: How does my sentence make sense?

    It is a clear difference between “my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpy Dumpy” vs. “my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpy Dumpy”.

    I would think that putting a tiny mark after Gaga is a faster and simpler solution than trying to figure out what would be a correct restructuring of the sentence, in order to avoid the Oxford comma, therefore it is more sensible…

  • Ernest Everett Blevins

    “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty” means parents likely more important than the latter two.
    Under the rewrite argument, “I love Lady Gaga, Humpty Dumpty and my parents” makes the parents less important.
    So depends on how the writer wants the parents to be thought about makes a great deal of difference if they are the most important of the list and or course are not Humpty Dumpty and Lady Gaga.

  • Rose McDonald

    I have Grammarly; it keeps underlining words for correction that are correctly spelled that and are proper names, It just did it to the name Grammarly.

  • yourmomsidol

    Just use it, you lazy asses.

  • tidewatertilly

    I learned to use the oxford comma early in school and then later on was told that it was not necessary, now I am putting it back in. Just when I thought I was out…they pulled me back in.

  • Rodimus Prime

    As observed in the example above…it depends on the circumstance.

  • Chicken McPhee

    I just use a semi-colon.

  • Bluesman50349

    I use it all the time and have a predilection to serialize things way too often…

  • Michael A Riley

    Hang on while I post corrections to all the previous posts.

  • liberaltraitors

    The Oxford comma is for Brits and twits.

  • Shannon D Gardiner

    I was taught not to use the Oxford comma. As a reader, putting a comma at the end of a list just before ‘and’ is fine but as a listener, the writer could be choosing the easy way of constructing a list without care as to how it sounds. If you read allowed the above sentence with or without the Oxford comma it will sound the same and hence be confusing. It seems to me that the Oxford comma can be used as a lazy way of writing. Weather you use the comma or not your list should still make sense when read allowed.

  • marcusdarnley

    Obviously the “Oxford” comma is correct, should always be used, and those who eschew it are illiterates.

  • P H

    I was taught to preface a List with a semicolon or a colon and use parentheses when required. ie.

    Please bring me a; pencil, eraser, and notebook.

    Please bring me; a pencil, an eraser, and a notebook.

    Please bring me:
    A pencil;
    An eraser; and
    A notebook.

    I love; my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty.

    I love my parents (Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty).

  • Dowell Godwin

    i like ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars because it is a kick-ass album!

  • bigjim847

    In most cases, the extra comma is wasted. I like the Elements of Style by Strunk & White

  • TerFar

    As a Brit, my take on any punctuation is to use it minimally whilst ensuring clarity of meaning. So I use the Oxford comma if it is necessary, but not as a mandatory instrument.

  • Shawn

    I think rephrasing the sentance just to avoid making the little mark is way more work than just using the comma in the first place, and just doesen’t make any freaking sense. Quit being an idiot and use the comma.

  • Taur Inized

    what a quaint internet eddy to’ve randomed upon

  • David Martin

    Changing the order of a list of things can make an enormous difference. This seems comparatively obvious, and the sentence with the poor girl having to put Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty before her parents shows it (hello…?). But there are more subtle versions of this, it’s not just an implied order of preference. It’s just the feel of a sentence sometimes. Rules like this one should be thrown off, as they often are, people should just put what they feel like putting, as yer do with poetry.

  • Dakota

    In my opinion, the oxford comma is essential in writing. Without it, sentences can often be misenterpreted as the example above proved, and the sentence would not be as clear as it could be with the use of it. As stated above, opposers of this comma argue that the sentence can simply be rewritten to avoid confusion, but why not just include the comma for an easier and clearer fix?

  • ATT

    My editor always removes my Oxford comma from my articles, but thank goodness I’m the one who hits publish. I put it there for a reason – it’s necessary!

  • Ojo Stephen

    Thanks for clearing one of my numerous confusions

  • Walter Zimmerman

    I’ve always been a fan of the Oxford comma. I love the Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty example but what if these two individuals really were your parents? Unless the Oxford comma were always used in such list situations, then writing this:

    I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty

    would be ambiguous.

  • Chapman Lui


  • mike

    Why should I have to rewrite a sentence when simply adding an additional comma can clarify it better?

  • Virginia Rae

    I’ve always have preferred to use the Oxford comma as it is the best way to keep my writing clear and clean.

  • Joan Johnson

    I try to watch where I put my comas

  • james

    I love Lady Gaga too

  • Jaedyn

    I already use the Oxford comma, and no sentence is complete without it. In my opinion.

  • Zimpee

    What about icing cream as a verb?
    Can’t one like liver and also ice cream as an action (put cream over ice or put a block of ice into a pail of cream – or some other similar action) ?

  • Zimpee

    I like liver and clean shoes (for a living)

  • Ashwin Campbell

    To always use the Oxford comma is a must. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read an article in a newspaper, been confused, and then had to reread the offending sentence because of the missing comma. AP style sucks, is stupid, and a waste of time. Sometimes it’s funny though, I guess.

  • I always use the Oxford comma in my articles, but some journals insist on removing them in the proofs.

  • Jono

    Wow…so much debate over the humble comma. Clearly this issue is one of the greatest problems humankind faces!

  • keypingitreal

    The Oxford comma is a vestige of the anachronistic over-punctuated “up style” — I follow AP style and only use the trailing comma if (1) it is needed to prevent ambiguity; or (2) the series items are long.

  • Buttfunk

    It’s funny because all through elementary school my teachers were staunchly opposed to the Oxford comma. Since I was young and impressionable, it became almost a sin to use it (for me at least). It wasn’t until meeting my wife, who uses it, that I became more relaxed about my opinion (however, before that I would always argue with her about it LOL). I believe it’s all about how you were taught; with that I feel like it is important to be open-minded about such things. If my teachers early on would’ve explained [Oxford comma] instead of simply banning its use, I wouldn’t have been so against it. Evenmore, I do think it has its place Weaky Sneasel has a perfect example of why it is important.

  • JahnGhalt

    Ann Edwards has written a very nice, succinct, article on the Oxford Comma.

    Good Show!

    One could snark and say that if “AP Style” (and American Journalists) forego the Oxford Comma, that would speak in favor of using it routinely.

    Standards, don’t you know.

    There are better reasons. As a ‘math and science kid’ I find that certain punctuation rules involving parentheses to be arbitary and not in keeping with math rules – which has it’s own arbitrary rules in the use of arithmetic “operators”.


    One can avoid misusing operators (+, -, X, /) by using parentheses. Many of us may remember that the ‘X’ and ‘/’ are omitted entirely. Thus:

    2 X 3

    is algebraically expressed:


    And 2/3 is two-tiered with 2 in the numerator and 3 in the denominator:



    Which does not lend itself well to a text-editor.


    Likewise, as other commenters have pointed out, using the Oxford Comma can reduce ambiguity – one of those better reasons.

    As a “music kid” I find the best writing (and dialog, performed and otherwise) is like music. Rhythm and tempo are readily assignable by the reader when the writer has expertly polished up her prose. Commas, even “extra” ones (along with parenthetical phrases and dashes) add rhythmic cues that enhance reading and reciting – at least for worthy readers.

  • JahnGhalt

    I see that there are some “punctuation lawyers” that went before me.
    I believe that my “music/rhythm principle results in serviceable, clear, and sometimes elegant writing – even as the punctuation scolds will demand less clarity in obeisance to “the rules”.
    BTW – this little box has a nice spell-corrector. I’m a 95th percentile speller, but this feature may boost that to the 99th.

  • JahnGhalt

    My “namesake” (John Galt) gets a thumbs up from me:

    If things get that bollixed up I might actually use parentheses as in mathematics, rather than as in normal writing, to fully disambiguate which words I have grouped.
    WTH – let’s give him a Gold Star too!

  • stevenlehar

    Grammer is not the rules we all have to obey, grammar is a record of what people are commonly using today. We are all free to change them rules upside the head jes’ as long as the reader groks what we tryin’ t’say! I like the Oxford comma because it is clear, determinative, disambiguating, and effin’ cool man! Me choose it because me likes it! Stuffy grammar get stuffed! Say what comes naturally and the Grammatitioners will chase behind you recording all what you say-speak!

  • For me, the more simple the better and also less time consuming. I’ll risk misinterpretation for that. Out with the Oxford!

  • Randall Hamlet

    I hate it when people don’t use this comma. I think the British are the worst when it comes to comma hating, which is ironic because it is called the Oxford comma.

  • Cormac wouldn’t use an Oxford comma. Or any comma for that matter and you always know what he means

  • AlwaysWatching

    From a legal perspective the Oxford comma can be very important. Yes, I understand that this could be written more clearly, but imagine reading a will “The estate is to be equally divided between Mary, Frank and John.” As written this could mean that Mary receives 50% while Frank and John each receive 25% (splitting the other 50%.)

    With the Oxford comma added in it seems more clear that a 33.3% division is expected between the three of them. “The estate is to be equally divided between Mary, Frank, and John.”

  • Aru Fist

    Which is better putting a comma or rewriting a sentence????

  • Gemika Pearl Maloney

    I was taught that the Oxford comma is the American way, and we don’t use it in Australia. Personally I would restructure the sentence to be clearer. If I wanted to say who my parents were, I would say, “I love my parents: Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.”

  • a attard

    10 Q for the least you indicated to me that it exists.

  • Arthur dean Hansen

    My understanding is that commas were used in place of a lot of “and”s. So before the comma, you would say “Bart and Joe and Bill and Jane all went to the store.” We parse that now as “Bart, Joe, Bill and Jane all went to the store.”

  • David Currey

    I like the Oxford comma, the female period, and the human colon, but I only get good use out of the first and third items.

  • Monty Cantsin

    The thing I’m noticing from opponents of the Oxford Comma is that we should either rearranged the sentence or add words.
    I learned to write in the ’70’s as a child, and may have learned an obsolete method, but I actually find the OC to be a benefit in todays fast-paced, text-based digital age. (Excuse the accidental poetry, please!)
    Rewriting and adding words slows the writer down. If the OC is used properly, and the meaning flowing from the writers mind to the act of writing (typing, texting, or however) is made less onerous, thats a great benefit.
    I see not using it, relative to the act of writing, as similar to finding a typo in the act of reading. There is an additional interruption that takes place in the course of the act, that, if taken with other distractions and detractions, can bog things down.

    If the Oxford Comma facilitates writing and reading, I’m for it.

  • clarissa gafoor

    i love the Oxford comma – but it drives those who don`t understand it nuts – so it needs to be carefully used.

  • I like wine with sex, with wine itself, and with the Oxford comma.

  • urbanegorilla

    Never even heard of the Oxford Comma till today, but I’ve always used it. It clarifies in the same was as using parenthesis in a math equation. it makes life easier.

  • Vernon Dursley
  • rev2000

    It’s simple to insert rather than rewriting the sentence to avoid confusion.

  • As a proponent of the Oxford comma, I love this story of a count case that hinges on the lack of one! https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/us/oxford-comma-lawsuit.html?_r=0

  • William McRae Polk

    I’m confused, but my parents ARE Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty–don’t laugh,
    I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday–I was born this way!

  • Dana E. Gassaway

    I like the use of The Oxford comma! May it live on in our writing!

  • Janine Harris-Wheatley

    Do people think they are charged by the comma? The O
    xford Comma adds clarity, removes potential misunderstandings, and looks more balanced visually.

  • James Parks

    If you don’t use the Oxford comma, you should be boiled alive, beheaded, and dismembered.

  • Matthew Drollinger

    I see an argument here from opposition to the oxford comma that the sentence could be rewritten to be less ambiguous. While that works in many cases, it does not work in quotation, and there should be a way to properly write a properly spoken sentence. I feel that the oxford comma should always be used – Then there is clarification – and that’s really the point of it. I have not been using the oxford comma for years – begrudgingly – due to the trend of not using one (perhaps as a result of the AP style guide). Bring it back!

    Here’s a boggler: If I have three favorite jelly bean flavors, one of which is “cookies and cream”, one of which is “cinnamon and sugar” and the third which is “peanut butter and jelly,” how would I combine the three in a series?

    Is this correct:
    My three favorite flavors are cookies and cream, cinnamon and sugar and peanut butter and jelly.

    Or is this:
    My three favorite flavors are cookies and cream, cinnamon and sugar, and peanut butter and jelly.

    Or is there no correct way to state this sentence in the order that the words are presented? We may have multiple issues going on there – not just the use of the comma, but also with so many “ands.”

    [ Side note: I hate using punctuation within a quoted word/phrase to complete the encompassing sentence (as I just did above), however I believe it to be grammatically correct. ]

    This is a question I have asked my grammar teacher years ago in school. Her response was to reword the sentence. I do not find that response acceptable, as I believe it is proper to speak the sentence in that manner, and it is necessary to quote the sentence in that manner.

  • Class Versus Sass

    Why would rewrite a sentence, rather just adding a coma-seems kind of like extra work for a simple fix

  • BartCloni

    Without: I have a knife, bread and orange juice.

    With: I have a knife, bread, and orange juice.

    You don’t really eat bread with orange juice on it, do you?

  • Vigilabo_Vigilum

    I just fire anyone working for me if they don’t use it.

  • caleejr

    I just read the comments…..
    So many with a need to be correct.
    Lord help us.

  • williamsommerwerck

    This was first explained to me about 20 years ago.. Failure to use the Oxford comma can have legal repercussions. A will reading “My estate will be divided evenly among Alice, Bob, Charles and Deborah” does not mean the same thing as “My estate will be divided evenly among Alice, Bob, Charles, and Deborah”.
    In case you’re wondering… Yes, I’m a nut about the correct use of “between” and “among”.

  • Sheri Aurand

    Here is how an engineer would rewrite the sentence:
    I love my parents. (True)
    I love Lady Gaga. (False)
    I love Humpty Dumpty. (True)

  • linda moggio

    I have been a non-user of the Oxford comma my entire life, and, being a grammar mavin, I have never had the experience of having to ponder over any sentence without the Oxford comma such as the examples above. FYI, I am pretty old.

  • mmclarke

    The real question is, would Thor use the Oxford comma? Because, you know, Thunder God!

  • Tony Tiger

    “Without the Oxford comma, the sentence above could be interpreted as
    stating that you love your parents, and your parents are Lady Gaga and
    Humpty Dumpty.”
    Then what is the colon for?
    I love my parents: Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.
    More importantly, who gives a f*&% about an oxford comma to spend so much time on this 5h1t.

  • Scott McDonough

    So to avoid using a comma, we should alter our stylistic preferences? I love English because it is so adaptable. I think restricting myself to phrasing things a certain way to avoid the use of a comma is pretty stupid honestly.

  • John Shelby Richey

    The revision example sentence that includes Lady Gaga, Humpty Dumpty, and parents changes the implied meaning. The most important information should be the last information presented. Whom does the writer love the most? The writer of the first sentence apparently loves Humpty Dumpty more than s/he loves parents. The writer of the revised sentence loves the parents more.

  • Commas are for clarity only. Like all punctuation, less is best. If you have a “janky” sentence that needs clarification, then by all means toss in an Oxford comma or better, avoid the awkward usage and word the sentence differently.

  • Barath Srinivas

    An example,

    Without Oxford comma:
    The property is to be divided among John, Kate and June.

    The above sentence directs 50% of the property to John and the remaining 50% to be shared by Kate and June.

    With Oxford comma:
    The property is to be divided among John, Kate, and June.

    The above sentence directs 33.33% of the property to John, 33.33% of the property to Kate, and 33.33% to June.

  • Robert Ede

    it saves one linear space – old time typesetting

  • codaholic

    Grammarly doesn’t seem to give me a choice. I do not care to use the Oxford comma and Grammarly keeps telling me I have an error. Is there an Oxford comma option?

  • Symes

    Please, no Oxford commas. It makes my skin crawl. Punctuation should be minimalist. Oxford commas are superfluous.

  • Bob Greene

    I have never understood why the Oxford comma is optional. “I like a, b, and c” has an entirely different meaning than “I like a, b and c.” “b and c” defines a group, i.e., there are 2 items I like, where a, b, and c defines 3 items.

  • Tom Budlong

    Small thing, clarifies without twisting logic or word order. Use it. On to more meaningful clarity edits.

  • Pedro Manuel Vicente Martins

    In Portuguese we don’t use comma before “e” (and), it’s considered grammatically incorrect. The same goes with commas before “etc”, as “et” in “et cetera” means “e” (and).

    Of course I’m not saying that commas before “and” are incorrect, I’m just telling how a different language works.

  • oxford for life

    who cares if the sentence could be rephrased?
    if the writer wants to list who they love in order of importance, he/she would not have the luxury of rephrasing.


  • ChFrankM

    Since clarity of meaning (i.e., the recipient of communication understands the sender’s intention) is the essential criterion, it seems to me that sentence structure, word order, and punctuation should facilitate that end. Hence, use of the “Oxford comma” should be a secondary concern; does it or does it not affect meaning?

  • timdaro

    This is pure myth. The Oxford comma ranks up there with validly ending a sentence in a preposition.
    Copywriter for 43 years

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