In the English language, most grammar is pretty set in stone. From a young age kids are taught the rights and wrongs, even if they choose to ignore it in their everyday online conversations.
But there is one grammar rule that’s open to opinion: the Oxford comma.
There are two groups of people: those who adamantly use it, and those who don’t. Somehow, I fall into the mysterious third group: those who don’t really care either way.
What is the Oxford comma? It’s the comma that comes before the last thing in a list. Example: “I went to the store to buy apples, grapes, cookies, and pasta.” I could write the sentence without that last comma like: “I went to the store to buy apples, grapes, cookies and pasta.” and it’d still make sense.
There’s a really interesting kid’s book called Eats Shoots And Leaves that highlights the importance of commas, but in more obvious ways. The Oxford comma isn’t all that obvious and that’s why its use isn’t mandatory.
That being said, there are some cases where its inclusion makes for easier comprehension. Take the following sentence for example:
“At the concert I saw my friends, Madonna and Taylor Swift.”
One reading this could technically assume that my friends ARE Madonna and Taylor Swift, when I was really just listing who I saw at the concert. But if an Oxford comma was there, there would be no confusion.
“At the concert I saw my friends, Madonna, and Taylor Swift.”
I know I said I don’t really care about its use but honestly, I don’t have a preference because I was never taught to. I’m very precise about my regular commas and I know how to use a semi-colon, which is more than I can say for my engineer father (seriously!), but I was taught about those in school and because I pursued writing, I’m more aware.
I do understand the Oxford comma’s function. Lately, I do try to include it in my writing, but it’ll take time to become as natural to me.
Do you use it? Do you find it important? Will you try to use it if you don’t?
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