The Oxford comma – an appreciation

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:


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.





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