I have a confession to make: I like the Oxford comma. Also called the serial or series comma, it’s the last comma in a series of items, the one just before the “and” or the “or.” Many writers and editors find it superfluous, but I think it offers additional clarity. Consider the sentence “My favorite foods are mangoes, chutney, peanut butter and jelly” vs. “My favorite foods are mangoes, chutney, peanut butter, and jelly.” Adding the comma makes it clearer that we’re talking about peanut butter and jelly appreciated as separate entities rather than a combo. Although, if that were the case, the sentence should be rephrased to read “… chutney and peanut butter and jelly.”
On June 29, GalleyCat reported that the University of Oxford’s Writing and Style Guide now recommended avoiding the serial comma as a general rule. Lo and behold, the pending comma omission stirred up heated debate on the Internet, and the next day GalleyCat cleared the air with a post clarifying that Oxford University Press is simply suggesting its eponymous comma should be used judiciously to prevent ambiguity rather than imposed with an iron fist.
Who knew a comma could stir up such passion, even pitting Vampire Weekend…
against Stephen Colbert?
“Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma”? Obviously, some people do!
Since many publishers abide by the Chicago Manual of Style, the serial comma is still alive and kicking on this side of the pond.