I have been reading Berkeley Breathed’s “Bloom County” comic for many years. When he stopped drawing and publishing, there was a huge void in my daily comic section of the paper. But he’s back to drawing and making pithy pronouncements about our crazy politicized world, and I’m a happy reader. Part of his return to publication and syndication included an ongoing storyline about Opus and Bill the Cat running for president. Their platform? The importance of the two spaces after a period. It reminds me of another ongoing formatting and grammatical argument: The Oxford Comma.
Some people may not even know what the Oxford comma is, but others, like myself, know what it is and further, insist upon its use. While journalists and some other standard-makers insist the Oxford comma is not necessary anymore, I would posit that it should be used at all times. Yes, it saves a little ink and one typespace, to not use it. But nothing is clearer than using that little comma to separate things in a list.
If you don’t know what the Oxford comma is, it is the use of a final comma before the last item in a comma-deliniated list. I had toast, eggs, and orange juice for breakfast. I had to choose between a black dress, a purple pantsuit, and a yellow mumu. Of course all of these sentences can be written without that final comma. But there are times that final comma is really necessary. And if you are writing a lot, it is best to keep in the habit of using that third comma. That way you never leave it out when you should have left it in, because your habit was not to use it.
I know there are arguments on either side of the issue. People can have strong feelings about it, and can have loud arguments about it. Like most things where there are two potential answers that are both correct (Does the toilet paper roll go over or under? Is that dress black and blue, or gold and white?), people can come down pretty hard on “their side” and be unable to see the other side. I am no different. I am going to insist on the Oxford comma, no matter what. And when I was still teaching English (before the Internet), I insisted on the Oxford comma. I think it makes things very clear, with no ambiguity, to use it. And I’m close to militant about it, no matter what style guides are trying to tell me to do.
In other words, you can have my Oxford comma when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Also, those two spaces after the period? Yup, those need to stay, too. Naturally.
How do you feel about the Oxford comma? Do you use it religiously, or only when a list wouldn’t make sense without it? What arguments have you heard either way for its use or abandonment? Let me know in the comments!
Fairest of the Faire – available now!
Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.
Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.
When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.
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