A letter to my fellow English speakers
February 22, 2018
Commas are at present woefully misused. They are either neglected or abused, skipped over without a thought or crammed in places where they don’t belong. While cases like “toilet only for disabled elderly pregnant children” are flat out wrong, some areas in English grammar are wrapped in a subjective gray cloud of debate. Take for instance, the oxford comma.
Sometimes referred to as the the serial comma, the oxford comma is the comma that precedes the word “and” in a list. Now that you know what it is, you should avoid it at all costs. The use of the oxford comma is a serious issue, and you have to do your part to put an end to its tyrannical reign.
A basic rule of English is that you should be concise whenever possible. Using a lot of words when few would suffice is a big upset to the language as a whole. Logically, this rule extends to punctuation. The sentence “Tony has a fish, a cat and two dogs” reads perfectly well without the nuisance of an another comma, so why should we add one?
Of course, there are instances where a sentence is ambiguous without the oxford comma. Take the sentence “We invited the clowns, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to the party.” The reader would not know if you were listing more than two guests or if you were insulting former politicians. This is a predicament, I’m aware, but it is a predicament with a simple solution. Just switch the word order: “We invited George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and the clowns to the party.” The sentence is no longer ambiguous in its meaning.
Honestly, the world would be a better place without the oxford comma. English speakers could adhere to the fundamental laws of our language, and we could rid ourselves of a waste of ink as we progress further as language speakers.