Oxford has lent its name to many things over the years – a colour, marmalade, and an entire movement – to name just a few. My very favourite though has to be a rather contentious gramma rule – the Oxford comma. Sometimes known as a serial comma, it is the final comma in a list of things.
Grammarly uses the following example: “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty” – it can read as if the parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty. Whereas by using the Oxford comma the sentence is made clear: “I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty”.
One of my favourite examples in a newspaper was when Nelson Mandela’s reputation was rather tarnished by not using an Oxford comma:
Just last year there was a court case in the States when a lack of an Oxford comma helped a group of drivers get overtime pay. The court filing reads:
United States Court of Appeals
For the First Circuit, No. 16-1901 (March 13, 2017), Judge Barron:
For many the Oxford comma clarifies the meaning of the sentence but for others it is an old-fashioned anachronism that has no place in the modern world. On social media I recommend entering into the fray at your own risk – it can be worse than even the most polarised of political debates.
Hope your weekend is full of friends, laughter, and clear sentences.