The Oxford comma (also known as the serial comma) is a comma used before “and” at the end of a list. It’s named after Oxford University Press, which popularized its usage as a way to clarify the meaning of some sentences.
I need to buy jalapeños, habaneros, and Scotch peppers.
The last comma is the Oxford comma.
The thing is that there is a pretty vocal camp that refuses to use the comma. Usually, they argue that using the comma is unnecessary and uneconomical. Personally, I think that’s a weak argument.
In many cases, leaving out the comma won’t make much of a difference, but often, the Oxford comma provides clarity. Consider these examples:
- I’d like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.
I’d like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.
- We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.
We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.
- I had eggs, toast and orange juice. [It seems the author is addressing the toast and OJ.]
I had eggs, toast, and orange juice.
- I like going on vacation, hanging with friends, drinking beer and driving fast.
I like going on vacation, hanging with friends, drinking beer, and driving fast.
- I bought pop, peanut butter and chocolate. [Is this a Reese peanut butter cup?]
I bought pop, peanut butter, and chocolate.
In all the above cases, the Oxford comma clarifies the ambiguity created by its absence.
Where do you sit on the debate? Love it? Hate it?
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