The Oxford Comma is a highly debated topic central to all of our lives. Okay, it’s not really that debated, but it is relevant to our lives. While I’m not going to go into all of the details and examples, I am going to say my piece and then ask for your thoughts and reflections – or at least ask you to have thoughts and reflections, because as writers we should be aware of this issue.
So what is an Oxford Comma? you ask. Well, an Oxford Comma is best demonstrated by example:
Me, myself and Irene (this contains no Oxford Comma)
Me, myself, and Irene (this contains an Oxford Comma).
Get it? An Oxford Comma is the optional comma you put before the last item in a list when you are listing things. In English writing, it’s optional. Some people think it should be mandatory and others think it’s silly and never necessary. My friend Kush, when he edits my work, often encourages me to include Oxford Commas because he thinks they add clarity. At first I dismissed his nonsensical ravings as sheer popery, but upon further reflection I realized that the Oxford Comma really can clear up a great deal of ambiguity. Hmm, I thought – I should rethink this.
What I decided was that I would no longer exclude the Oxford Comma for convention’s sake, but evaluate each instance on a case by case basis and decide whether or not it called for an Oxford Comma – if it clarified or not. What I’m saying could be really boring (in fact, it is), but that doesn’t change the fact that the comma (and other punctuation for that matter) is an important tool in the writer’s resources, and this special comma is something that should be thought about and not simply dismissed every time we write lists. Ask yourself if it clarified, but don’t be stuck with an extremist’s view that you should always use it or never. Use it when it helps. That’s the Middle Ground attitude towards Oxford Commas.
Do you use them? Do you support their use? Did you actually read to the end of this post? What’s your favorite sexual position?