Why Is the Oxford Comma a Heated Debate in 2017?

Wind Eggs

Grammar rules change daily. We learn about them two years later. If we’re lucky. Fortunately, we can keep track of those changes by using a style book.

Sometimes we have to switch style books. An academic journal that publishes my work only accepts manuscripts in Chicago Manual of Style. I didn’t think it was a big switch until I realized the Chicago Manual disagrees with the Associated Press on comma usage. Changing habits that go that deep is difficult.

If it surprises you that style rules depend on who dictates them, and the publication that adopts them, you don’t understand the history of language. The first standardized English dictionaries weren’t compiled until the eighteenth century. It’s only been within the last 150 years that we’ve tried to standardize American grammar.

Oxford comma The Oxford requires a comma before the last item in a list longer than two. For instance derby, mustache, and…

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8 thoughts on “Why Is the Oxford Comma a Heated Debate in 2017?

  1. My take on the Oxford comma is that we need it… and we don’t. You don’t know until you define the words you’re using. Kind of a quantum superposition problem. It depends on whether the intended meaning of the sentence is clear (as in what the author intended) or not. English being English, the rules are a bit elastic… (my favourite is ‘i before e except after c’, which is true for about 5 words and wrong for over 900…)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I strongly believe rules should be kept/applied where there is a potential misunderstanding built into one version. The classic ‘eats shoots and leaves’ versus ‘eats, shoots, and leaves’ is a case in point.

    Liked by 1 person


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