Is the Oxford Comma Really Necessary?

In these divided times, controversies abound. Politics, religion, lifestyle, and other issues are but trivial compared to the true quandary of our day: Is the Oxford comma necessary?

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Oxford comma is the last comma before the conjunction in a list. For example, in the sentence “The new kittens’ names are Bóinn, Chláir, Fearghus, Sionainne, and Sláine,” the comma just before “and” is the Oxford, or serial, comma.

The Oxford comma has even been the subject of a lawsuit. In Maine, the overtime pay for truck drivers hinged on the clarity that the serial comma could provide.

Returning to my adage that the only reason to write is to get your ideas across, I tend to favor the use of the Oxford comma. It can prevent confusion. Compare these two sentences:

Jim writes about his parents, John F. Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth I.

Jim writes about his parents, John F. Kennedy, and Queen Elizabeth I.

The serial comma eases our confusion about Jim’s parents’ identity.

As grammar rules go, though, use of the Oxford comma is generally considered to be optional. Many writers have a passionate preference for whether that last comma is needed. As always, I like to make my writing as easy to understand as possible.

#commas #grammarrules #serialcomma #Oxfordcomma

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