The Oxford Comma Debate

The definition of the Oxford comma (also known as a serial comma—or even a Harvard comma apparently):

It’s the comma that follows the penultimate item in a list of three or more things. It is also a thing that many writers and grammarians love to debate, though I’m not sure why.

So, let’s take a look at the Oxford comma debate. While I fall with those who believe that using this highly debated comma – because it actually makes things easier to understand. (Remember – we want readers to understand what we write.)

So, as far as I can tell, the main argument against using the Oxford comma is that it’s somehow easier to not insert a comma at the end of a list of three or more items.

Let’s look at this example: 

We invited my parents, Herb and Liza.

To me, this makes sense if I invited two people named Herb and Liza, who both happen to be my parents. I included their names in the sentence for easy reference.

But if I actually invited four people, then this could be confusing, because I should’ve done one of the following:

Example #1 (with serial comma): We invited my parents, Herb, and Liza.

Example #2 (sans serial comma): We invited Herb, Liza and my parents.

Both sentences make some sense AND both are grammatically correct.

The confusion comes in when the reader realizes they do not know who Herb and Liza could be. And once your mind begins down that path – it becomes apparent that by not consistently using the Oxford comma, confusion arises for the reader by omitting a comma.

As a writer of flash fiction, I love streamlined language as much as the next person, but this sets up a problem for your reader.

And as a writer who wants to avoid being misunderstand, I’m going to use every tool in my Writer’s Tool Box – including the Oxford Comma.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Published by Mustang Patty

I am finally a full-time author, who writes legal thrillers, how-to- books, short stories, flash fiction, a tiny bit of poetry, and Blog posts. My published works include 'Guilty until Proven Innocent,' and 'Innocent for the Moment.' Both of these books are part of a trilogy called the Jill Adair Series. The third book will be available in late summer of 2020. I'm currently coordinating a Collection of works created by Artists during the Pandemic. The title of the book is '2020 Artists on LockDown Collection,' and it will be available for sale on Amazon.com in early September 2020. I'm also coordinating an Anthology of Short Stories called, '2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology.' This book will be available on Amazon.com on Black Friday, 2020 - just in time for holiday giving. I am married to my wonderful hubby of over 36 years, and I have two grown children, named Heather and Gregory. I've been blessed with two beautiful grandbabies, Heather Rose and Logan Ernest.

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