The Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma (also known as the serial comma, or the Harvard comma) is a comma that is placed “after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’,” (New Oxford American Dictionary).

An example of the Oxford comma:

The man was wearing a hat, shoes, pants, and a jacket.

-Note that the Oxford comma is bolded.

The use of this comma is, in my opinion, imperative.

So, now you’re probably thinking, “What is she going on about? Why do people need to know about the Oxford comma?” (And Oh. My. God. I can’t believe I just wrote rhetorical questions… for those of you who don’t know, I kind of hate rhetorical questions – I’m such a hypocrite). Well, I’m going to give you the classic example of why you need Oxford commas:

With the Oxford comma:

We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.

Without the Oxford comma:

We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.

-Note – read the examples out loud for full effect.

As you may have noticed, the one without the Oxford comma insinuates that JFK and Stalin are the strippers, which as you probably (and should) know, that’s not the case. This is why you should use it, people – it helps with clarification, as well as it helps to avoid awkward sentences.

Now, I’m no English teacher at Oxford (not even close), but I am a novelist, and I will preach about the necessity of this!

Do you also use the Oxford comma? Will you begin to use it after reading this post? Let me know in the comment section below!

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One thought on “The Oxford Comma

  1. Pingback: Mark Strand’s Tunnel, Family Fun and My Injured Hamstring | The Dad Poet

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