Meanings: the Oxford Comma

September 26, 2011

When you are listing a series of items in a sentence, you separate them with commas, but should there be a comma after “and” and before the last item in a series?  Most Americans are taught to omit that last comma as unnecessary — part of the general high-school-teacher-urging with regard to commas, “when in doubt, leave it out.”

Oxford University Press, however, has long championed that final comma: so much so, that its use has come to be known as “the Oxford comma.”  Last last spring, there was a brief agitation when it appeared that Oxford might abandon the Oxford comma; but it turned out to be a misunderstanding.  The Oxford comma stands strong.

Language Log provides a useful visual aid (below) and additional commentary.



About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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