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Okay, everybody — just calm the hell down, already. I saw — I don’t even know how many links, yesterday, about the announcement that Oxford University’s style manual was no longer advocating the use of the serial comma, or the “Oxford comma.”  That they were, in fact, recommending you not use it.  This naturally lead to rioting in the streets, looting, and arson, and is generally being considered one of the Seven Seals of the Apocalypse.

I, too, fell to my knees and wept at this latest assault on our language, but —

Wait, what?  You don’t know what a serial comma is?  What, seriously?  You don’t — I just — why are you even reading my blog? A serial comma is that last comma in a series of items, so you don’t end up with sentences like this description of Peter Ustinov: “Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.”

I have never once heard a compelling argument as to why we shouldn’t use a serial comma.  Sure, the AP Stylebook advises against it, but they’re not talking about English, they’re talking about journalism. Two entirely different languages.

Anyway, it turns out that the announcement is meaningless.  That style guide I linked to above?  That’s a “branding style guide” used by the University of Oxford Public Affairs Directorate, “a commercially and editorially autonomous organization.”  Oxford University Press itself still suggests its use. So all is still right with the world.  Thank God that’s over with.

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Comments

4 Responses to “Oxford Comma Still Used at Oxford”

  1. Cheryl Albright on June 30th, 2011 3:47 pm

    PHEW. I too (no surprise here) am a zealous advocate of the Oxford comma. No serial should be without it!

  2. Cheryl Albright on June 30th, 2011 3:48 pm

    But apparently not always an ardent user of the pre-too comma . . . sigh.

  3. Karen S. Elliott on July 16th, 2011 11:20 am

    I prefer to use the series comma – without it, it just looks wrong. And when preparing to proofread a project, I try to remember to ask the writer what they prefer – why go through marking “missing comma” if the writer prefers they be left out? There are many online debates about this.

  4. Michael Montoure on July 16th, 2011 11:36 am

    Yeah, there’s room for debate — it’s a stylistic concern, not strictly a grammatical one. Good call on asking the writers about their style instead of imposing your own. I’m always in favor of it, myself — I don’t think I’ve ever once seen a sentence that would be made more clear by removing the comma.

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An unreliable narrator, MICHAEL MONTOURE ( montoure@bloodletters.com ) is an indie writer of horror and dark urban fantasy. His obsessions include hidden truths, secret dealings, and the changing and fragile nature of our own pasts. He is known as much for his spoken-word performances of his fiction at Seattle coffeehouses and conventions as for the stories themselves. Currently working as a writer and producer of the webseries Causality, he lives alone with a gray cat by the edge of Echo Lake, Washington. ( Twitter / Facebook / Google+ )
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