The serial comma goes to court

Rosefolly

Oh, this is SO up our alley! The use or non-use of the serial comma has lead to a decision in a court case, and it actually involved lots of money. No matter which side of this dispute we are on, grammar does matter.


https://thewritelife.com/is-the-oxford-comma-necessary/?fbclid=IwAR0kEstQC4lOaX8IXGmCk3M6AC4V5RNGMwvbPBz33kXxy-xPBgn6W6N0exk#.XHRDArDjD-N.facebook

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vee_new

Rosefolly, I had never heard of the Oxford Comma until I came to the RP site. I wonder how it got the name? Do you suppose an undergraduate carved a piece of graffiti into the ancient wall of his college quad using the incorrect punctuation?





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Rosefolly

I've wondered myself.

All I know is that there are two schools of thought on the serial comma. I myself think it makes more self to use it than not use it, with clarity as my goal.

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lemonhead101

I didn't know anything about the Oxford comma until I arrived in the States, and even then, it wasn't ever mentioned in either my undergraduate or graduate years (despite getting an M.A. in English and teaching freshman Comp!) Then, I moved into the world of technical writing and editing, and still it wasn't a thing (despite the particularities of the required MLA or Turabian writing styles).

(Different fields of expertise require different "style manuals" if you publish academic journal articles etc. in that field. So, for example, in STEM (particularly in engineering), I had to learn and follow the Turabian style guide. (Turabian is the last name of the author who put this style guide together originally.) In graduate school and in medicine (when I edited in those fields), I needed to follow MLA or APA style guides (completely different from Turabian).

And now I've spent the last three years in media and communication, I'm now following the Associated Press style guide (which is different every year). It can get soooooooo confusing at times (since my background is mishmash of all three) but it's getting easier. :-)

Turabian and MLA do use the Oxford comma in their style guides (I believe). The AP style guide - No.

After so many years of using the Oxford comma, it now looks incorrect if I do put it in.... :-}

And here's a short TED talk on the Oxford comma debate.

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kathy_t

I'm pretty sure that using the Oxford comma never leads to misunderstanding (a strong statement, but I think it's accurate), while lack of an Oxford comma does indeed sometimes cause misunderstanding. Therefore, my personal rule is simple: Use it. Why not? It's a single "extra" keystroke that's well worth it.

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annpanagain

I was taught to never ever use a comma before an "and" or "but" and also never start a sentence that way. So to me, the Oxford or serial comma looks wrong and ugly!

When I write I like to start with "Also" or "However" to avoid the use of the forbidden "And" or "But" unless I want to make a point of shocking the reader! In my eyes anyway! The modern person is probably more shocked at my use of cursive writing!

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carolyn_ky

I have always used the Oxford comma. It just makes sense to me.

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astrokath

We were also taught not to use a comma before 'and'. What annoys me is that most of the examples of why you should use it (like the one with Stalin, JFK and strippers) can be fixed by just rearranging the sentence.

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vee_new

Annpan, we were always taught never to start a sentence with 'also' . . . impossible to win!

Slightly off topic but I was reading an old post card which had been used as a bookmark which started "Notwithstanding . . ." (he was mentioning a delayed flight) OK the writer is an Oxford graduate and the headmaster of an up-market London private school but this seems the beginning of a long essay.

Were you taught never to start a PC with "Dear So and So" . . . just get to the thrust of the message "Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here."

Or, as recalled by an elderly Great Aunt many years ago and waiting to hear of an expected visit from a niece. The postman arrived bearing a post card and called out to Auntie "Your niece can't make it this week as little Jackie has the 'flu."

"Thank you Postman" said Auntie "You have saved me the trouble of reading it myself."

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annpanagain

Vee, I don't recall the "Also" veto but think it would have been impolite to write a postcard without a "Dear So and So" to the recipient. Actually I don't remember either sending or receiving one so that was never a problem! My grandmother had an album of beautiful postcards, the kind you see on Antique TV shows now, I expect my mother threw it out as she didn't keep "stuff"!

I had little occasion to write a letter until I went to Australia and then wrote aerogrammes to my family every Sunday for thirty years until I moved back to the UK.

Do people write holiday postcards now? I grew up from seven years old in a seaside town and a lot of the shops carried racks of them. Some were the saucy kind but I couldn't always get the joke!

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vee_new

Annpan, we get quite a few post cards here. A US cousin sends them regularly from the many places she visits, so does a Canadian friend. My Mother, another great traveller and someone who was only happy when away from home, always sent cards to her Grandchildren.

We have three large, moth-eaten albums of PC's inherited with our house. The previous owner more or less moved out just leaving 'stuff' he no longer wanted. His Father had been in the Royal Navy during WW I and sent cards to his Mother from every port! I couldn't bring myself to throw them out . . . but I can't keep holding on to them. Maybe I should find a 'dealer' who collects/sells this sort of ephemera.

It is still possible to buy those rude seaside postcards. Always pics of busty girls, fat women and small hen-pecked husbands! Original cards by Donald McGill fetch very high prices.


Seaside Postcards



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Rosefolly

When I travel out of the United States, I send post cards back to my children and siblings. It's just a way of letting them know I am thinking of them. I myself don't save post cards I receive, though I find them interesting. And why send a so-called humorous one when there are so many that are beautiful? Especially when that style of humor is so far from my own.

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