The Oxford Comma: A Never-Ending Debate
This article explores what the Oxford Comma is and when it should be used.
The Oxford Comma is a long-debated writing tool. Although the argument has been settled that the Oxford Comma is grammatically incorrect, the debate on whether or not it is necessary still haunts the writers of today.
What is an Oxford Comma?
An Oxford Comma is a comma added to a sentence that is not grammatically necessary, but instead is used for a pause in a list, offsetting the second to last item before the “and” is said. The Oxford Comma can more importantly be used to ensure that a list of certain items isn’t misunderstood.
With an Oxford Comma - I would choose x, y, and z.
Without an Oxford Comma - I would choose x, y and z.
With an Oxford Comma - I would like coffee, bacon and eggs, and toast.
Without an Oxford Comma - I would like coffee, bacon and eggs and toast.
Here are some examples of an Oxford Comma in a sentence:
Right vs. Wrong
Although at some moments the Oxford Comma is not necessary, there are a few instances in which it’s crucial. As seen in the first two examples above, the Oxford Comma is unnecessary. However, it can still be used either way. In the second two examples above, the Oxford Comma is necessary, because it separates the last two items on the list clearly, without confusion.
In the 1400s, an Italian printer named Aldus Manutius utilized many different symbols and writing tools to denote certain characteristics of his sentences. He added a “/” whenever he wanted to add a pause in speech. Later on, Manutius was credited with the invention of the semicolon and italics. This new invention can be deemed revolutionary, changing the way authors could print their works and utilizing a new form of diction that had never been seen before. Long after the comma was invented, two groups began to emerge. One was in support of a serial (Oxford) comma, and the other was strongly against it, thus beginning the war of commas.
The Necessity of Punctuation
Although the debate on Oxford Commas will most likely continue for a long time, one thing is certain: the use of commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, and ellipses gives writers control over how their works are read. Without certain tools, authors would struggle to clarify and add emphasis to things that they would want to include in their writing. Therefore, as growing writers, it’s important that students use punctuation to achieve correct grammar and the desired diction for their sentences.
The Oxford Comma is the single most debated piece of punctuation known to writers. Its use is at some moments necessary and at others unnecessary. One thing is certain; writers need to understand how to use punctuation correctly in order to manipulate their readers into understanding what they’re trying to say. Punctuation is powerful.
"What Is An Oxford Comma And When Do You Use It?". Thesaurus.Com, 2021, https://www.thesaurus.com/e/grammar/do-we-need-oxford-comma/#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20Oxford%20comma,and%20is%20the%20Oxford%20comma. Accessed 12 Jan 2023.
"Three Comma Rules You Need To Learn Now! NO MORE EXCUSES!". Litreactor, 2023, https://litreactor.com/columns/three-comma-rules-you-need-to-learn-now-no-more-excuses. Accessed 12 Jan 2023.