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The Age Old Debate: To Comma, Or Not To Comma, That Is The Question?

Posted by Rachel Thomas on Jun 12, 2018 8:12:00 AM

Oxford-Comma

If there is one thing that gets word nerds and grammar police riled up, (along with 95% of the office staff—management vs. creatives), it’s the wildly controversial Oxford comma.

People either love it or hate it, but there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.

Which begs the question… who’s “write” in this debate? Is there a right answer?

And of course, which camp do you fall into? 

Most people are either Team Oxford Comma all the way, or staunchly New School and proud of it. When asked, folks can get as passionate about that tiny little comma as they do about politics. 

Pro Health Tip: Don't bring (insert obnoxious whisper here—THE COMMA) up at the dinner table.

Like, ever

If you do, consider yourself warned. We are convinced friends will become enemies and family will be disowned forever, or something equally dire. Also, all those Oxford people are probably experts on how to bury a body. Just sayin’.

They’re old school, remember?

That’s “how they do.” 

What is this Dreaded Oxford Comma Anyway?

The Oxford comma, also known as the “serial” comma, is used as the very last comma before a conjunction like the word “and” or “or.” It’s used when three or more things are listed in a sentence, like so:

I really like to eat pizza, sushi, and cheesecake. 

The serial comma is the one that falls right after the word “sushi”. Militant Oxford comma lovers insist that the comma has to be there for the sentence to make sense. 

Side Note: They’re also probably the same folks still using #2 pencils, powering down their laptops and phones before charging them, memorizing phone numbers and using actual phone books, plus doing a whole host of other unnecessary steps in life. 

But we digress. (Apologies if we sound bitter. We’re not, we swear.)

Now, if you’re New School, you would write that same sentence without that pesky little comma, like so:

I really like to eat pizza, sushi and cheesecake. 

Oxford lovers insist there is too much ambiguity there. Do you really like pizza, plus sushi and cheesecake… like… together? Gross!

They claim that the serial comma helps to bring clarity to the sentence. So, when you read it with the comma, you learn that person really likes pizza, and they like sushi, and they like cheesecake! 

See how clear that is? (Yawn!)

New Schoolers on the other hand, just don’t see the point in adding that extra comma. Oftentimes, it can be redundant. Besides, we’re so dang busy, who has time to add that extra little guy anyway? #amirightoramiwrite?

So, Who's Got the Strongest Leg to Stand On Here?

Well, as much as both camps may hate it, there may not be a truly right or wrong answer. The fact is, sometimes that Oxford comma is necessary to provide clarity to a sentence, so there is no second-guessing what it’s trying to say.

Court battles have literally been won and lost over that pesky little booger!

But other times, we propose that it really is redundant and unnecessary.

Only you can decide. Comma or no comma? The chicken or the egg? Laurel or Yanny?

We believe the more important issue is to consider your audience when writing something and deciding to use Oxford comma.

Once you do decide, try to remain as consistent as possible (whatever path you choose, grasshopper), because using the serial comma in one paragraph and then omitting it two paragraphs down, just makes it look like you don’t know what you’re doing. 

And you do know what you’re doing… 

Right? 

Tweet your team -- are you team Old School Oxford or team New School? 

I'm old school and I'm proud! I'm team Oxford comma. #thegreatcommadebate stellapop-click-to-tweet-290911-edited

I'm new and hip, duh. Team New School all the way. #thegreatcommadebate stellapop-click-to-tweet-290911-edited

Yo!

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