Do you embrace the Oxford comma in your writing or banish it? As a freelance content writer, I want to know.
The Oxford comma gained fame and recognition for its common usage at the Oxford University Press. For those of you who don’t know, the Oxford comma is the comma preceding the word “and” at the end of a list.
It looks like this:
We brought hamburgers, hot dogs, and pickles.
Now let’s take it out:
We brought hamburgers, hot dogs and pickles.
No harm done there. But if you take away the Oxford comma, we can have some pretty hilarious results, as shown by this clever cartoon from a humorous grammar blog.
Another famous argument for the Oxford comma is the following example:
“I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”
In the olden days when I was learning to write, I was taught to disregard the Oxford comma. My children in high school today tell me they are taught it is optional. So do most people use it? Actually, a recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans showed that the results were close, with 57 percent of the vote loving that comma and the other 43 percent regularly hitting the delete key.
Today my freelance content writing and business writing is reviewed by many, many people before it’s posted or printed. …people from all different backgrounds and writing sensibilities. Some bat for Team Oxford, others blackball that pesky comma.
In most cases, whether or not I use the comma comes down to the style I am writing in, and in many cases, the specific preferences of my clients, who may or may not be bound to the Microsoft Word grammar checker as their “punctuational mentor”.
Curiously, while the Oxford comma may seem trivial compared to other important world matters, if you’ve ever created a business or internal publication with an eclectic team, you will find out quickly where people stand on its usage. If you are an Oxford-hater and omit it throughout the first draft of the company plan, then Tom goes comma crazy, putting in Oxfords everywhere he can on the Google doc, you find out quickly that Tom is an Oxford-lover. And he obviously didn’t go to my grade school. .
If Tom is on your team, and your Microsoft Word isn’t catching places where you’ve overlooked the Oxford, remember that the setting can be easily changed.
Access File>Options>Proofing, then selecting “grammar and style”.
Then select “always” to make sure Word always checks for the comma. The default is “don’t check”.
So, when a style is not specified, and someone else reviews your work and messes with your commas, you have the choice of fight or flight. So tell me, do you fight for the Oxford comma? Is it worth fighting for? Is it better to go with majority rule, or is it purely a matter of circumstance?
Do you have a strong preference? Leave me a comment and let me know. And be sure to give me a call if I can help you with writing something for your business…with or without the Oxfords!