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Will you miss the 'Oxford comma'?

Grammar fans react angrily to the scrapping of the Oxford comma – but what on earth is it?
Jun 30th 2011, 8:31 PM 3,374 31

OXFORD UNIVERSITY has decided to scrap the so-called ‘Oxford comma’, sparking Internet debates among grammar fans and us to ask – What exactly is it?

The Oxford Dictionary describes the ‘Oxford comma’, or the ‘serial comma’ as it is also known, as an “optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list”.

So an example would be:

We write stories about politicians, businesspeople, and celebrities.

It is known as the Oxford comma because it was traditionally used by printers, readers(,) and editors at Oxford University Press.

The debate began yesterday after some people noticed the change to the University of Oxford Branding Toolkit.

Twitter updates on the comma’s merits and nuisances were uploaded throughout the night.

Others claim they will stick with the comma:

The University says the comma still comes in handy when clarifying the meaning of a sentence when the items in a list are not single words. An example from the good people at the Oxford Dictionary:

These items are available in black and white, red and yellow, and blue and green.

Although it is unclear when the rules changed in the college’s style guide, the section on the comma now reads:

As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’.

However, it can still be used to clear up any sentence ambiguity.

Well, that’s clear then.

Oh, and just to keep the Atlantic Ocean rivalry going, the Oxford comma can also be called the Harvard comma. No word yet if the American university will hang on to its own punctuation mark now.

The Internet is full of Oxford Comma trivia this morning and some bloggers have unearthed a 2008 Vampire Weekend song entitled ‘Oxford Comma’ which opens with the attention-grabbing line, “Who gives a f*!k about the Oxford comma?”

Do you?

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