oxford comma debate serial comma

Oxford Comma Debate: To Use or Not to Use

Grammarians, writers, and lowly professors of the language take note, a University of Oxford Writing and Style Guide has decided that writers should, “as a general rule,” avoid using the Oxford comma.

For those of you in the dark, the Oxford comma, better known as the serial comma, gives each element of a series its own distinct place in it, as opposed to lumping the last two elements together in a single breath.

To quote Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, a proponent of the controversial Harvard comma, as an example:

“Think about it — when you bake, you gather up your eggs, butter, sugar, and flour; you don’t treat sugar and flour as a pair. That would be insane.”

Although the guide was intended for university staff writing press releases and internal communications and not a permanent change to the OUP style of writing, it still aroused the age old debate: to use [the comma] or not to use?

While I personally prefer using the beloved Oxford comma, several of my colleagues say nay, with exceptions to the rule being where it is needed to prevent ambiguity.

One example illustrating the potential damage that could be caused by ignoring the rule is provide by Twitter user, Aaron Suggs:

“For teaching me that the Oxford comma resolves ambiguity, I’d like to thank my parents, Sinead O’Connor and the Pope.”

In honor of the heated oxford comma debate, we present Vampire Weekend’s take on the issue: