The fuss about the Oxford comma

Punctuation is often seen as a transferable skill. Like, if you can punctuate in your native language, then surely you can do too in English, right? Well, not exactly. Although the actual punctuation signs are the same, the way some of them are used is different. I will write another post on the use of punctuation in English, but today, I wanted to concentrate on the controversial serial or Oxford comma.

What is the Oxford comma you ask? The Oxford comma is the final comma before and, or or nor in a list of things. For example: I bought a skirt, a shirt, and a jacket. The comma before and is called the Oxford comma. Simple enough, right? Well, no. The Oxford comma is a controversial topic of grammar among us, grammar geeks. So much so, that nowadays, the line of thought is pretty much: do whatever you want!! 

Some people swear that without the Oxford comma, sentences WILL be misunderstood. For instance, you’re talking to a friend about a party you went to the night before and you say: "I talked to the clowns, Boris Johnson, and Jeremy Hunt." With the Oxford comma, it is clear that I talked to 3 different types of people. Without the Oxford comma: I talked to the clowns, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. People would argue that the clowns are… well, I don’t think I need to explain this point any further.

Others will argue that this is nonsense and that confusion can be easily avoided by changing the order of the words in the sentence: I talked to Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and the clowns.

And another group of people will argue that there are more important things to worry about in the world than a comma and whether or not it should be in a sentence! 

All in all we can say that the Oxford comma is pretty much like Marmite. You either love it or you have it. Where do you stand?

#grammar #english