DO COMMAS CREATE AMBIGUITY?—BRITISH LEGAL DOCUMENTS. I had never encountered the term “Oxford comma” until I read RAB’s blog post, but I encountered the concept in high school, where I was taught that the use of the comma before the “and” in a series was optional. The wikipedia article on the Oxford comma shows that opinion is divided on its use. When I became a lawyer, I learned that in general it was the practice to use the Oxford comma in American legal documents. In contrast, although the comma is an “Oxford” comma, my experience was that British drafting avoided using any commas. This wikipedia article says that: “One aspect of archaic legal drafting – particularly in conveyances and deeds – is the conspicuous absence of punctuation. This arose from a widespread idea among lawyers that punctuation was ambiguous and unimportant, and that the meaning of legal documents was contained only in the words used and their context.” The article goes on to say that: “In modern legal drafting, punctuation is used….”, but this must be a very recent development.

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