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Grammar Central > Why I still use the Oxford comma

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message 1: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15767 comments Mod
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message 2: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18313 comments Mod
I call it the serial comma but preach its merits in school. "They" say it is optional. I say it is required.

Way to egg them on, Ruth.


message 3: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15767 comments Mod
I learned to use it in school. Then all of a sudden, it was either high school or college, it was verboten. Lately, in my stubborn old age, I've started to use it again.


message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol | 10390 comments We were taught not to use the comma before and, Now I know.


message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan I've always used it, Ruth. The other way doesn't sound quite right to me.


message 6: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15767 comments Mod
The trouble with not using the comma in a list of things is that the last two things, joined by an "and," sound as if they were a unit--a single thing.

As illustrated by the little cartoon at the head of this thread.

As I said, when I was young it was the rule to use a comma there. We were later told to leave it out. Now it's sneaking back in from what I can see. And I think it should.


message 7: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (last edited Nov 11, 2011 11:35PM) (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
When I was at school in the 60's we were taught that it was wrong to use a comma before the 'and' at the end of a list but it never sat comfortably with me even then (I am, like Ruth, an instinctive grammarian). I still leave it out every now and then (like a hangover!).


message 8: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18313 comments Mod
Truth be told, you can usually get away with leaving it out. But I haven't had a lot of luck with the word usually in life, so I take no chances.


message 9: by Anthony (last edited Nov 12, 2011 07:20AM) (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 112 comments I prefer to use the Oxford comma only when it is needed to preserve the sense. I fear I'm not really convinced by the cartoon.

I looked up Fowler who disapproves of the over-enthusiastic use of the comma. In these cases, he says, the comma is a substitute for and not to be used as well as "and". Nevertheless, he gives a couple of examples where the Oxford comma is needed.

“Tenders were submitted by (the shipbuilders) John Brown, Camel Laird, Vickers, and Harland and Wolfe”. The comma is needed here because Harland and Wolfe, being a single company, need to be identified as a single item on this list. (Incidentally, I can almost see H & W's cranes from my living room window).

His other example is, “The smooth grey of the beech stem, the silky texture of the birch, and the rugged pine.” He notes, “If there is no comma after birch, the pine is given a silky texture”.


message 10: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15767 comments Mod
More graceful to say

Tenders were submitted by (the shipbuilders) Harland and Wolfe, John Brown, Camel Laird, and Vickers.


message 11: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 112 comments I like "graceful". The poor man was struggling for an example.


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