There are a lot of things that tear people into two different groups, and I’m not talking about the upcoming Presidential election.
There are those who are divided into:
Twitter vs Facebook people — I love both of you for different reasons.
Bacon lovers vs bacon likers — I fall into the latter.
Harry Potter fans vs Twilight lunatics — Seriously?
50 Shades of Grey readers vs closet 50 Shades of Grey readers — I will never pick up that book. That you know of.
Oxford comma users vs non Oxford comma users — Let’s discuss this further.
Oh, I’ve seen many a heated Twitter debate rise up over the use or non use of the Oxford comma. What’s an Oxford comma?
The Oxford comma (also known as the Harvard comma, obviously because smart people use it) is a comma used directly before a coordinating conjunction (and or or, and sometimes nor) that precedes the final item in a list of three or more items. Example: My children’s names are Rachel, Claire, and Zoe. See? I knew there was a good reason to have a third kid.
Use of the Oxford comma can help resolve any question or ambiguity concerning a list of items. It’s consistent with the Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, neither of which I even own, but whatever. Some say that it’s redundant to use with a conjunction, or that it can cause further ambiguity, but the only problem I see with the Oxford comma is that some people choose not to use it.
Take this sentence, for example: My cat barfed, ate some food, and barfed again. See that Oxford comma in there? Here’s how I read that sentence:
My cat barfed [pause for ew], ate some food [pause more dramatically because seriously what’s going to happen next?], and barfed again. [This is where you gag and wonder why I’m telling you this in the first place.]
Now with no Oxford comma: My cat barfed, ate and barfed again.
I read this sentence like this: My cat barfed [pause because ew], ATEANDBARFEDAGAIN. [And now you’re wondering why I sound like a meth addict. And possibly still wondering why I’m telling you this.]
But aside from causing someone to talk all fast and crazy and in all caps, the Oxford comma serves the purpose of separating items. For example:
My kids like to yell, run, and throw shit around. [This indicates that they like to do all of these marvelous activities separately]
My kids like to yell, run and throw shit around. [This version indicates that the running and throwing of shit are conducted together.] [Make note: my kids actually do all three of these together, but I’m unsure of the grammatical explanation for that description.]
See? It’s just plain confusing and irresponsible to leave it out. Think of the children.
So now that we’ve got it straight which grammatical way I swing, it was time to put my marriage to the test. I have to admit, I was nervous. I mean, what if he didn’t, you know….Oxford?
I snuggled up close to him in bed. “So um, you know what an Oxford comma is, right?”
[Scrolling through iPhone.] “Uh….” [Dammit!]
“You know, the comma that comes before the and or but in a list of items?” [Please say yes! Please say yes!]
“Oh, yeah. Ok.” [Still scrolling.]
So….do you, uh…use it?” [OMG SAY YOU USE IT!!!!]
[Scrunches up face.] “Uh, yeah. I’m pretty sure I do.”
“You’re damn right you do!!!!!”
Whew! That was close. Another marriage saved by grammar.