If the Oxford comma could speak…

June 30, 2011

in Punctuation, Style and usage

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Surely it would be invoking the famous Mark Twain line right about now:

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

Twitter was aflutter this week with rumors that the Oxford comma, aka the serial comma, has been abandoned by the very institution that gave it its name: Oxford University Press.

Here’s how the Economist’s language blog explained the comma drama:

Rumours went wild on Twitter recently that the famed university press had abandoned the Oxford comma. Not so, it turns out. Apparently the university allowed dispensing with the comma only for press releases and internal communications. (Why remains unclear, at least to this blogger.)  So this tempest in a twittercup did not even belong in a twittercup.  You’ll just have to find something else to get worked up about today. 

In case you’re wondering, the Oxford comma is the comma before and or or in a list of more than two items. So this list includes an Oxford comma: 

bananas, apples, and oranges

And this one doesn’t:

bananas, apples and oranges

More later on why people give a flying @#$* about this small, curled mark. 

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