She heard a crash and spun around in the dark room, barely able to see in the feeble light filtering in through the boarded up window. The building had been compromised. She saw the undead, Dick Clark and Richard Simmons.
The Oxford comma will always remain dear to me. I am supposed to write in AP style at work, but I choose to practice literary passive resistance and sneak the Oxford comma into grants, reports, and guidance documents. When I don’t use the Oxford comma, my writing feels naked, vulnerable, and incomplete. When the Oxford comma is not used, it does open the door to some amusing ambiguities. Here’s some of my favorite examples:
We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin. We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.
I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand, and God. I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.
The specter of the run-on sentence also rears its head without the Oxford comma:
The restaurant offered egg salad, ham and cheese and roast beef.
Earlier this year the Oxford comma garnered quite a bit of attention when the University of Oxford announced that the Oxford comma (or serial comma) would no longer be used as the preferred style for their press releases. Big sigh of relief. That means the Oxford comma will remain part of their style guide, but it is still troubling to me that it has become a grammatical second-class citizen for Oxford’s internal Public Relations department. Maybe I am over-thinking it, but doesn’t every step down that sort of path lead to, well, decadence? I wonder what Jacques Barzun would have to say on the issue. Surely there must be some connection between the decline of Western civilization and comma usage.
Although I understand that it is a discretionary writing practice, and predicated to some extent on what style you’ve been taught, I feel a kinship to the Oxford comma. In Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend, he advances the idea that when everyone else becomes zombie-like creatures, it is us – the lone holdouts and survivors fighting for our old ways – that are the monsters in the eyes of the majority. It’s an interesting idea. I kind of like the idea that someday I will be creeping about in the dark like Bela Lugosi, cape obscuring my face, spraypainting grafitti using the Oxford comma to the horror of the townsfolk.
How about you? Any fans of the Oxford comma, or of not using it? The issue seems to be a bit polarizing! For those of you not comma-obsessed like me, any other writing conventions you can’t live without?