What’s it say that I’ve gotten into 2 fights over the Oxford comma…

It’s a given that some things are up for debate.  Further vs farther.  Y’all vs you guys. Apartment vs flat.  But when it comes to punctuation, the biggy is the Oxford comma.  To use or not to use….that is the question.

On April 6th, I read a wonderful blog post by John Guillen on Write me a book, John! “Writing Pet Peeves #8: Commas.”  I LOVE commas.  In grad school, comma, I took a History of the English Language Linguistics Course. period.  The professor stressed that the average writer does not use enough commas. period.  Of course, I love commas when they are used correctly.  Reading John Guillen’s post reminded me of my shocking realization that some people use the Oxford comma.  I mean like use it regularly.  Like in real life.

It was a dark and stormy night, and I was looking at my newsfeed on Facebook. I noticed a post by my cousin where she wrote something to the effect that there are humans on this earth who don’t use the Oxford comma.  I was like are you effin kidding me???  Who would use that antiquated device!  I was literally enraged.  Ridiculous.

Oh, for those of you who aren’t grammar geeks, the Oxford comma is the extra comma erroneously used before the ‘and’ at the end of a list.  Ok, ok, I’ll play fair. According to www.oxforddictionaries.com, “The Oxford comma is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.”

She buys meat, cheese, and bread.

AAAAUUUGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  I mean, who would use that???  So back to my dark and stormy night, I chimed in on the Facebook thread with something banal like “only an idiot would use the Oxford comma.” This thread had already been dicey and it only got worse.  People being snotty and saying well at Harvard they use it or don’t use it (I forget which).  Others responding that then you went to a stupid school.  Really babyish.  But I, obviously, agreed with the don’t-use-it-crowd.  I guess I was a little overly assertive in my views that maybe it was a north vs south thing (kidding, I didn’t really say that), so it was good that this was on the internet and not in a real room with the real people who might have slapped me.  But I was so angry that might have been possible.

Who acts like this? I like to write grey.  Others prefer gray.  I don’t want to hit them.  But the Oxford comma is on a whole different level.  Back to my fights… My cousin and I agreed to disagree (but obviously she was still wrong).  I went to work and told this story to my colleague.  Crazy as it seems, he ALWAYS uses the Oxford comma.  WHAAAAAAAA?? And we got into a little heated debate. He felt it clarified a sentence.  I felt it was stupid, antiquated and traditional in a bad way.  He basically told me to grow up.  I responded as any adult grammarian would and said F*@# YOU!

Oxford Dictionaries states that “The Oxford comma is also known as the ‘serial comma’.”

I would never be a serial comma user.

About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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46 Responses to What’s it say that I’ve gotten into 2 fights over the Oxford comma…

  1. Paul says:

    Uh-oh, this is gonna put a dent in our bloggership (blogger friendship?). I always used the Oxford comma! It’s how I was taught! It makes sense. For example: There was a red, blue, black, green and yellow, and silver car in the parking lot. All the cars are a single colour but there is a car that is two colours. If I don’t put a comma before the “and silver car”, it would be very confusing, no? (Please don’t point out that listing the colour of cars in the first place is a weird thing).

    I did hear maybe a year ago that English curriculums (or someone of importance) was doing away with the Oxford comma, so I guess you win the argument.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christie says:

    The year before last I went back to school and had to take a Rhetoric class to satisfy a prerequisite for the nursing program. I was really uncomfortable, as I was old enough to be the mother of every other student, and possibly an older sister to the instructor. Who, I might add, was a total pompous windbag. He insisted we use the Oxford comma. I had to grit my teeth every time I typed a paper because the thought of getting anything less than an “A” kept me up at night. As horrible as being forced to use that extra comma was, it was nothing compared to the appalling grammar I came across proof reading the papers of the kids right out of high school. Texting has ruined the current generation.


  3. George says:

    I am so tempted to write a few sentences here with the Oxford comma included but that would only poke that which has already been awakened. Maybe next time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. abyssbrain says:

    It was a dark and stormy night, lol 🙂

    Flat is the British term so that’s the one used in Hong Kong, but I prefer the term apartment. Grey is also a Brit’s spelling so that’s what we used. Though for me, farther and further are not much debatable since I use farther for distance and further for denoting abstract contexts.

    I actually always encounter the Oxford comma especially in technical papers, but yeah, others don’t use it. I personally don’t use it as well but I don’t care that much if others use it. The English language is very diverse after all.

    A week ago, I have written a post titled math vs maths, you may find it of interest.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. John Guillen says:

    No good. I’ve always used the Oxford comma. ALWAYS. And I’ve also written about it on my blog. My favorite professor in college was an English one and he was an Ivy League grad. In all the papers I wrote for him he never told me to stop using it. And I know I was taught to use it all through school. So ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting on this sensitive subject. My husband went to an Ivy League college and Syracuse for a graduate writing program. One insisted that they don’t use it, the other that they do. My really good- but- not- Ivy-League college gave it the don’t use or else. So there.


  6. Oh man. I didn’t go to college. I have no idea where a comma should go ever! I just place them when I think one would need to take a breath when reading my insanely long run-on sentences! All these grammar things stress me out so bad!! If you ever see anything grammatically that horrifies you on my blog (not that I’m assuming you read every post) please, please tell me! Hehe

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I definitely WON’T tell you if you have messed up something grammatically. You have a special “voice” when writing. It’s charming and many people who follow all the grammar and writing dictates, do not have a voice. That makes their writing dull and boring. And don’t be fooled by anything I say. I make mistakes, too. I just edit for so long that I don’t care for my post as much as I did before. I love grammar……a total geek. But for real the Oxford comma is a touchy subject with many people. We’re an odd race….

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I love geeks and I love learning new things. I have no idea commas had fun names like Oxford. Thanks for the lesson! Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I had dinner with the strippers, Jack Kemp and Rush Limbaugh.


    I had dinner with the strippers, Jack Kemp, and Rush Limbaugh.

    I prefer the second dinner (although only slightly).

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Bwahahahahaha! This is hilarious! I discovered while working as an editor at the school newspaper in college that the Oxford comma was out. Everyone was SO over it. But, me? I was all like, “Um, HELLO?! OXFORD COMMA, PEOPLE!” The other copy editors would get angry and take it out, and then me and my Oxford Comma peeps would put it back in, and it became this whole… thing. I still use it. It just seems more proper somehow…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Optional? The Oxford comma isn’t optional! That’s like saying BREATHING or Cadbury creme eggs are optional! Love me some OC.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I never knew it was called the Oxford comma but I have been trying to stamp it out for the longest, longest, and longest of times. Oops my bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. OyiaBrown says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown and commented:
    Use all the commas you like, and like, and like, and like… Wonderful invention

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Barb Knowles says:

    Reblogged this on saneteachers and commented:

    This blog is fairly recent, but I ridiculously got into another argument about the Oxford comma. Hence, the reblog. If I’m ever arrested, it will be due to punctuation.


  14. jan says:

    Doesn’t it depend on the cadence you want to set?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I think that it was so drilled into me to not use it, that when I see it, the sentence stops me. I re-read because I’m not sure exactly what the person means. And I probably didn’t articulate that well. When I read and there is an error that editing missed, it catches me and breaks the flow of the passage. That’s what sentences that contain the Oxford comma do to me. Both my high school and college taught that it was big no-no. What makes it funny, I think, is the passionate opinion so many people have on the subject! Including me. Who gets so worked up over punctuation?! Me.


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