THE OXFORD COMMA. Here is a discussion on RAB’s blog, You Knew What I Meant, of this example of student writing: “This passage discusses the main ideas of life, death and suicide.” RAB says that the passage provides “a very good argument for retaining the use of the ‘Oxford comma’ [which is]….the comma preceding ‘and’ in a series.” She points out that it is possible to read the sentence as saying that: “The passage discusses the main ideas of life, which are death and suicide.” I initially read the sentence that way. I think that this possible reading gives the sentence an uncanny power. This wikipedia article on the Oxford comma shows how much the style authorities are divided on its use. Journalists dislike it, but omitting it can lead to strange ambiguities. The wikipedia article gives an example I like, which was collected by Teresa Nielsen Hayden. It was found in a newspaper story about a documentary on Merle Haggard: “Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.”

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One Response to THE OXFORD COMMA.

  1. RAB says:

    I love the wives!
    One of the commenters on my post suggested that since the Oxford comma is sometimes called the Harvard comma, we should call it the Cambridge comma!

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