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Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Because it's best to have a sense of humor about these things:

And an opinion on the Oxford comma (also called the Harvard comma, the serial comma, or the series comma, used in lists of three or more):


Now, just as a word to the wise, the Oxford comma is actually optional. Technically, you can omit it if you wish. But with this illustration in my head, I generally use it!


  1. I'm afraid somewhere in the long ago mists of nearly forgotten memories I recall hearing that a comma before the "and" in a list was not necessary. This, I see now, is omitting the Oxford comma. I have to say that in the sentence, "I had eggs, toast and orange juice." its pretty unlikely that anyone is going to think the I of the sentence is speaking to the toast and orange juice. From time to time, we need to trust to common sense when dealing with punctuation, though, granted, those times are few and far between.

    As long as we're on the subject of lists let me caution the readers of this blog against omitting the "and". I find it very annoying when someone writes, "For breakfast I had eggs, juice, coffee, toast." Or this one, "When the night fell I put on my dark pants, dark shirt, boots, knife." I mean how pretentious can one get. Just suck it up and admit that for breakfast you had eggs, juice, coffee AND toast. You put on all that other stuff AND your knife.

    Has anyone out there read, "Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog"? All about diagraming sentences. Not bad.

  2. Well, naturally, the comma, being one of, if not the only, valuable punctuation mark, should, when you really stop to think of it, be used liberally, if not frequently. It will not, however, come to the rescue, Carpathianesquely, of every Titanic thought.

  3. Thin Man, first, I'm delighted that you began a sentence with the petulant "I mean..." and finished with what is sadly and quickly becoming the antiquated "one". Second, if you are the sort of person who puts on dark clothes and a knife at night, perhaps you'd best write it about it on some other person's blog; I am NOT complicit in... whatever that's all about. Third, I think the omission of the conjunction is coming in conjunction with the general contraction of language in modernity, thanks to brief and informal text and facebook lingo working its way into ordinary conversation. My pet peeve in this regard, while we're on the subject, is when people actually SAY "slash". Just define your terms, choose the right word, and get on with it!!

    Dr. Williams, I appreciate your use of commas, though, were I your teacher, I would likely mark your sentence, "Exhausting."

  4. I would use the Oxford comma if I wanted the reader to pause and highten / extend intonation on the conjunction.
    "I had eggs, juice, aaand toast this morning. What did you have?" Not to literally extend it. It should just be read that way, don't you think? The pause created by the comma creates the emphasis on the conjunction.
    But, yes, it is optional these days.

  5. Think of 2 kids on a Monday morning, bragging about who had a better weekend:
    "I went to the cinema and the carnival."
    "Well, I went to the cinema, the carnival, and the aquarium!"
    More emphasis on the last 'and'.

    1. Thanks, Dman! I hadn't thought of it in that sense yet.