Why the Oxford comma is the best
The future is an interesting place to live in because while we have magical techno-wizard tablets in that fit the palm of our hand and contain the sum of human knowledge we are still puzzled by questions like, “Why does it rain right after I get my car washed?” No matter how ‘progressive’ you think you are you probably still have a foot in the past in some shape or form.
My old timey love besides working with your hands, no bloomers on the beach, and bottling my man tears in case of a drought is the Oxford comma.
For those of you who do not know of this simple yet elegant tool, the Oxford comma is the comma that appears before ‘and’ ‘or’, or ‘nor’ at the end of a list. It is used to keep the universe of words in order and to allow a reader to time their voice with the end of a list; which can give them a more natural sound when finishing a list rather than a dead stop. The Oxford comma is the human element in a medium that can be cold and black and white with no gray in-between; unless you are reading on a Kindle.
It’s been around for a century and for some reason modern style guides for ‘professional’ writers state that this comma is an abomination, and must be snuffed out. They claim that the comma causes confusion and ambiguity and should be done away with so that the simple ‘and’ can act as the break to a list. They see the narrative as a cleaner state without it and it saves space.
They claim this because they are stupid.
The Oxford comma is, like I said, the human element in writing. I say human beacuse humanity is messy, crazy, beautiful, and awesome. Our lives are bizarre messes on the canvas of the world and each piece completely different from one another. We should be embracing this mess rather than suppress it, and that’s what the Oxford comma does, it allows humanity to appear on the page.
Granted, in the 17th and 18th centuries the grammar and punctuation usage was out of control (See The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman), but through the years we have figured out the proper use of punctuation and have paired that down into the simple and elegant forms we have today. The Oxford comma is one of the last outlandish punctuation’s out there.
Why outlandish? Because it is technically true that you do not need it. It is a flourish. An extra keystroke that is unneeded in today’s world of foodie blogs and unchecked facts that circulate on the news.
Just because something is technically true doesn’t make it correct, at least in writing, in science not so much. The beauty of writing is knowing the rules so well that you can break them in tiny pieces and watch those who love rules cry.
I’m not saying that the Oxford comma is this renegade punctuation or something, but rather it is like that old man sitting on his porch and flipping off people who are trying to tell him that bacon causes cancer. He knows that he can do without it, but life wouldn’t be worth living at that point.
Originally published at ironcladwords.com on October 27, 2015.