Author Topic: The Oxford comma debate  (Read 1233 times)

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Offline NorthernLights

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The Oxford comma debate
« on: Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 06:29 PM »
The Oxford comma debate

Communicators are passionate about many thingsójargon and linguistic mistakes rank high on any listóbut few things rile communicators like the Oxford comma.


Also known as the serial comma, the Oxford comma sparks a clear divide between communicators. You're either for or against it.

As an infographic from OnlineSchools.com explains, the Oxford comma got its name from the Oxford University Press, where printers and editors traditionally used it. When you use the comma before the conjunction in a series of words, its job is to clarify the meaning of the sentence.

For example, which sentence is clearer?

    "I would like to thank my parents, Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey."

    "I would like to thank my parents, Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey."

The second one, right?

But in sentences with more simple lists, that kind of confusion is absent:

    "She wore tan shoes, pink shoelaces and a polka-dot shirt."

The Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association, American Medical Association, and others recommend the Oxford comma because it clears up ambiguity and makes lists easier to understand.

But the Associated Press, New York Times, and The Economist are against it because it can cause ambiguity and be redundant.

Where do your loyalties lie?

Fun fact: While the Oxford University Press still uses the serial comma, the Oxford University PR department does not.

Check out the graphic for more.



larger graphic here

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/13902.aspx#

Offline DragonFire

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #1 on: Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 07:42 PM »
Cool.  I learned the first example.  I agree the second one is redundant. :)

Offline eratatosk

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #2 on: Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 10:20 PM »
The Oxford comma is part of our style sheet at work.  Which means I recently got to insert one in a sentence my boss wrote that included the line "chocolate lakes." 
"I do not understand why everything in this script must inevitably explode."

Offline ban sidhe

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #3 on: Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 03:54 AM »
@ DF:  Without the comma after Clinton, the first sentence sounds like you are naming your parents.

In the second sentence it becomes obvious you are referring to 4 people, not 2.  Thus the Oxford comma!

@eratatosk:  lakes of chocolate????

Offline Bitten

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #4 on: Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 04:50 AM »
I don't know where you work, but if you have lakes of chocolate, I'd like to apply. :D


The comma debate has been an annoyance for me for many years. I think it is necessary and everyone should use it, no matter what. It makes things more clear, and it's the way I learned, so it seems natural to me. When I am doing business writing, I always use it, because you can't afford to be unclear in most business communications. The difficulty, for me, is when I as doing journalistic writing, or writing for public relations or advertising purposes. In journalism, the "bible" is the AP style book, and AP says not to use the serial comma. Most PR writers also use the AP style book, so no comma in press releases, etc. And, of course, advertising writers use no style guides at all, so punctuation, grammar, and spelling are all questionable there. When I switch back and forth, between advertisement, press releases, and business comm, I sometimes forget which way to use the damn comma.  :oops

Offline DragonFire

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #5 on: Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 06:15 AM »
:giggle  I stick with what I learned.  I'm too damned old now to try to learn a different way.  It also may help to point out that most of my schooling was done in the South - GA.  :ggrin

Offline Silsin

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #6 on: Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 12:12 PM »
Ah, the comma topic :) To me the Oxford comma is a necessity. The sentence you mentioned above really makes it clear.
Btw - I've got a nice book on this from Lynne Truss. It's called 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves'.
The title refers to a story about a panda bear. The author of the sentence was writing about the bear: The panda eats shoots and leaves. But the editor added a comma, so the sentence turned out as: The panda eats, shoots & leaves. :giggle which is for sure a completely different pair of shoes.

There is no reason not to follow your heart! Steve Jobs

Offline NorthernLights

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #7 on: Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 12:30 PM »
:giggle


Offline Silsin

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #8 on: Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 12:50 PM »
:giggle

There is no reason not to follow your heart! Steve Jobs

Offline ban sidhe

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #9 on: Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 01:02 PM »
Amen!   ;D

Offline Bitten

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #10 on: Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 01:59 PM »
Exactly!

Offline DragonFire

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #11 on: Fri, Mar 01, 2013, 07:43 AM »
Ditto!!  :ggrin

Offline eratatosk

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Re: The Oxford comma debate
« Reply #12 on: Sat, Mar 09, 2013, 11:31 AM »
I work for a court.  The opinion's not mandated yet, so I can't talk about it in any depth, but he was explaining why one of the arguments presented for why the court should be bound by the parties' agreement that a duck was not a duck (so to speak) was not compelling.   
"I do not understand why everything in this script must inevitably explode."