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The Oxford Comma

The debate rages on regarding inclusion of the Oxford, or serial, comma. Our GrammarBook.com Rule 1 of Commas recommends, “To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.”

I would like to share the below OnlineSchools.com presentation with you for this week’s grammar tip. I apologize for the small size of the type; we could not make it bigger and still fit it into the post. If you find it hard to read, click on the graphic to see it in larger type. This chart does a nice job covering the pros and cons of the Oxford comma. Note their recommendation at the end, “If you’re in the United States, use it . . .”

The Oxford Comma
Courtesy of: OnlineSchools.com

Posted on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at 3:51 pm


4 Comments

4 Responses to “The Oxford Comma”

  1. Rebecca F. says:

    As I’ve let you know before, I really enjoy your newsletters, especially the pop quizzes. Would you mind clarifying the explanation on #2 in Commas Quiz 1 for me?

    2. Choose the correct sentence.

    Correct Answer: B While you’re at the store, please pick up milk, bread, eggs, and orange juice.

    Explanation: When starting a sentence with a dependent clause, use a comma after it.

    Your Answer: A While you’re at the store, please pick up milk, bread, eggs and orange juice.

    Thank you.

    • Jane says:

      In the current edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and on the website, we have stated a preference for use of the serial, or Oxford, comma.
      Rule 1 -To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.

      However, we will be issuing an eleventh edition of The Blue Book in February, where we will loosen up a bit, and allow for omission of the serial comma before and as long as you’re consistent in your writing. So, technically, your answer is also correct, especially since we are trying to emphasize the comma after the dependent clause in that particular question.

      Thank you for both your kind words and for pointing this out. We will be making the appropriate changes throughout the website after the new edition is released.

  2. Cheryl Y. says:

    As I was checking out commas, I noticed this:
    Rule 5. Use commas to set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed.

    The comma that follows the word before “or” is my question. I have been working with curriculum developers, smart people, and I was almost beheaded with this comma placement. Can you shed a little light on this one for me?

    • The last comma in a series before and or or is known as the Oxford or series comma. In our Rule 1 of Commas, we explain why some writers include it and some do not. At GrammarBook.com we prefer to use it because we are more interested in clear communication than saving one space. We also issued the above grammar tip dedicated to the Oxford comma, which concludes that if you live in the U.S., you should use it unless you are writing for a news outlet that follows AP Style.

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