I Give a F*ck About an Oxford Comma

by Rachel Long

by Rachel Long
assistant opinions editor

Yes, I’ve seen those English dramas, too, and I know they’re cruel, but this is no drama. My goal with this article is to forever change the face of journalism, at one small liberal arts college news publication, at least in terms of its comma usage. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Oxford comma, it’s the comma before the word “and” when you write out a list. For example, take the following sentence: “People who don’t like the Oxford comma include the Purple & White’s Editor in Chief, a trashcan, and an insane person.” In this case, the comma before “and an insane person” is the Oxford comma. Now read that sentence without the Oxford comma: “People who don’t like the Oxford comma include the Purple & White’s Editor in Chief, a trashcan and an insane person.” This makes it sound like I’m saying that our Editor in Chief is a trashcan and an insane person, both of which are as of yet unproven claims.

Currently in the world of journalism, use of the Oxford comma is contentious. Many publications use it, but the Associated Press Stylebook—the defacto final word on journalistic style—has advised against using the Oxford comma for its 60 years of existence. I find this highly unusual considering the very structured and systematic rules that are used when formatting journalistic articles. Initiating the consistent use of the Oxford comma in journalism would simplify the writing process and provide further uniformity amongst future articles.

Some might point out, however, that it is in fact extra work to type in the Oxford comma while writing. I mean, you’re adding something extra, so that’s more work, right? To these people, I would point out that it is more work for the author to stop writing and evaluate his or her work every time they want to include more than two of something or someone in an article. If the Oxford comma was consistently used, there would be no question about whether it is needed or not, and authors would avoid potentially embarrassing grammatical errors.

The following are examples of sentences desperately lacking in the comma department, a problem which can easily be avoided by future Purple & White contributors implementing the trodden upon, but grammatically necessary, Oxford comma.

“She took a photograph of her parents, the president and the vice president.” (mentalfloss.com)

“This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” (mentalfloss.com)

“The highlights of [Mark Twain’s] global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.” (mentalfloss.com)

“We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.”  (Buzzfeed.com)

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