The "Oxford comma" explained

Some grammar rules (and embarrassing mistakes!) transcend the uniqueness of different regions and style guides. This new International Grammar section by OnlineBookClub.org ultimately identifies those rules thus providing a simple, flexible rule-set, respecting the differences between regions and style guides. You can feel free to ask general questions about spelling and grammar. You can also provide example sentences for other members to proofread and inform you of any grammar mistakes.
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Re: The "Oxford comma" explained

Post by rssllue » 13 Aug 2015, 10:17

I just successfully used it a few times in my latest review! :text-woo: :text-woo:
Or should that be, successfully did not use it? :eusa-think: :roll: :shifty:
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Post by zeldas_lullaby » 13 Aug 2015, 17:11

Rock on, Russell.

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Post by moderntimes » 13 Aug 2015, 20:09

I still fight with the comma before the "and" and have tried to make myself not use it, as you so correctly and proudly say, rss.

For use / non-use of this and other junk, check out my newly resurrected website:

(Removed by a mod as it is against the Anti-Spam Rules)
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Post by rssllue » 13 Aug 2015, 22:19

8) :)
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Post by bookowlie » 16 Aug 2015, 16:51

PashaRu wrote:I usually stay away from topics like this. It's minutiae. While I respect anyone's right to be as "proper" as he/she feels necessary, splitting hairs over minor issues like this, admittedly, bothers me a bit. And while the correct definition of the Oxford comma may be interesting, I frankly don't care if someone uses it or not. I agree with the initial post in that commas (or other punctuation) should serve the primary purpose of making written text clear and understandable.

A writer who strictly adheres to all of the "proper" rules can be, in my opinion, a good writer. But not a great writer. Because a great writer expands his mind, talents, and writing beyond the artificial and arbitrary boxes and boundaries created by someone else.

Shakespeare, for example, created words and phrases that are still in use today; it's estimated that he contributed several thousand new words to the English language. He turned nouns into verbs, verbs into adjectives, connected words never before used together, added prefixes and suffixes, and devised completely new words. A stickler-for-the-rules middle school English teacher would have eviscerated his plays and sonnets with the dreaded red pen. Charles Dickens, arguably one of the greatest novelists in the English language, wrote long run-on sentences. Again, too-locked-into-the-rules-for-her-own-good British schoolmarm would have handed him back his paper with multiple errors marked. A remarkable writer in recent times is Annie Proulx (The Shipping News, which won the Pulitzer in 1994). Choppy, incomplete sentences. To sticklers, deserving the dreaded red pen. But writing so good it takes your breath away.

Language is here to serve people, not the other way around. If you (any author) stringently follow the rules, I'll respect you. But that's not terribly difficult to do. If you break them (and do it creatively, "with style," as the above poster noted), I'll admire you. Maybe even envy you. Because you are creative and original. And nothing is off limits - not spelling, punctuation, syntax, capitalization, etc. Of course, this does not justify being sloppy or careless. That's an entirely different matter. And never obscure the meaning. But to use language in new, unique ways (either written or spoken) is beyond good writing. It is great, inspired, and inspiring writing.

Finally, I understand that compromises may need to be made to get published. And that's kind of sad.
Well said, yes, I agree, and all that jazz. :)
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Post by bluemel4 » 17 Aug 2015, 06:54

It seems like this is more a style issue then a hard and fast rule. Grammar Girl states that when making a list it is easier to use a comma before the and just to be consistant and clear.

There is also an interesting article on the serial comma by Patricia T. O'Conner, writer of the very popular grammar book Woe is I. She states that it is only omitted in news paper articles. The use of the serial comma or Oxford comma is highly encouraged in all other types of writing. Here as a link for further reading. http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2011/ ... mma-2.html

Based on my research it seems like the publishing house that modertimes is using has a rule against using the serial comma unless a certain set of circumstances presents itself. Since we do not use the same style guide or any guide for that matter. I think the use of serial commas (comma before the and in a list of three or more), should still be used on this site for reviews.
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Post by bookowlie » 17 Aug 2015, 08:14

bluemel4 wrote:It seems like this is more a style issue then a hard and fast rule. Grammar Girl states that when making a list it is easier to use a comma before the and just to be consistant and clear.

There is also an interesting article on the serial comma by Patricia T. O'Conner, writer of the very popular grammar book Woe is I. She states that it is only omitted in news paper articles. The use of the serial comma or Oxford comma is highly encouraged in all other types of writing. Here as a link for further reading. http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2011/ ... mma-2.html

Based on my research it seems like the publishing house that modertimes is using has a rule against using the serial comma unless a certain set of circumstances presents itself. Since we do not use the same style guide or any guide for that matter. I think the use of serial commas (comma before the and in a list of three or more), should still be used on this site for reviews.
Nice research! I agree with everything you posted, including your own opinion. 8)
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Post by zeldas_lullaby » 17 Aug 2015, 11:02

Yeah, you're really in the know, Mel! :-) Grammar Girl sounds cool. I may check it out!

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Post by moderntimes » 17 Aug 2015, 11:18

Thanks for the good info. Not using the serial comma is not just for newswriting. I see this comma omitted in many of the books I review. These are both British and US publications. After all, the style guide that my publisher follows is the Oxford College style guide, and this guide is used for most all British publications. I also think that the Chicago Manual of Style, which is essentially the "bible" for US publishers, also omits the serial comma. So it's not just my publisher. I just finished reviewing a novel written by a Swede which is typographically edited for British punctuation, and it omits the serial comma (the comma before the "and" in a list of equal items).

Anyway, this is the trend and so I'm now using this. But for downgrading a book which uses this comma is ridiculous. The quality of writing is 95% of an review, mechanics maybe 5% or less, and certainly not something I'd every downrate a book for using.
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Post by bluemel4 » 17 Aug 2015, 11:55

moderntimes wrote:Thanks for the good info. Not using the serial comma is not just for newswriting. I see this comma omitted in many of the books I review. These are both British and US publications. After all, the style guide that my publisher follows is the Oxford College style guide, and this guide is used for most all British publications. I also think that the Chicago Manual of Style, which is essentially the "bible" for US publishers, also omits the serial comma. So it's not just my publisher. I just finished reviewing a novel written by a Swede which is typographically edited for British punctuation, and it omits the serial comma (the comma before the "and" in a list of equal items).

Anyway, this is the trend and so I'm now using this. But for downgrading a book which uses this comma is ridiculous. The quality of writing is 95% of an review, mechanics maybe 5% or less, and certainly not something I'd every downrate a book for using.
Actually the Chicago Manual of Style does tell you to use the serial comma. It is also backed up in the article link I provided in my pervious post.
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Post by bookowlie » 17 Aug 2015, 12:05

bluemel4 wrote:
moderntimes wrote:Thanks for the good info. Not using the serial comma is not just for newswriting. I see this comma omitted in many of the books I review. These are both British and US publications. After all, the style guide that my publisher follows is the Oxford College style guide, and this guide is used for most all British publications. I also think that the Chicago Manual of Style, which is essentially the "bible" for US publishers, also omits the serial comma. So it's not just my publisher. I just finished reviewing a novel written by a Swede which is typographically edited for British punctuation, and it omits the serial comma (the comma before the "and" in a list of equal items).

Anyway, this is the trend and so I'm now using this. But for downgrading a book which uses this comma is ridiculous. The quality of writing is 95% of an review, mechanics maybe 5% or less, and certainly not something I'd every downrate a book for using.
Actually the Chicago Manual of Style does tell you to use the serial comma. It is also backed up in the article link I provided in my pervious post.
:) I think the reason the Chicago Manual of Style says to use it vs. the Oxford College Style guide saying otherwise is that there has always been a difference of opinion on this issue between the US and UK.
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Post by moderntimes » 17 Aug 2015, 12:20

bluemel4 wrote:
Actually the Chicago Manual of Style does tell you to use the serial comma. It is also backed up in the article link I provided in my pervious post.
I stand corrected. Thanks for the info. Is this the more recent edition?
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Post by bluemel4 » 17 Aug 2015, 12:33

moderntimes wrote:
bluemel4 wrote:
Actually the Chicago Manual of Style does tell you to use the serial comma. It is also backed up in the article link I provided in my pervious post.
I stand corrected. Thanks for the info. Is this the more recent edition?
Yes. The 16th edition.

-- Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:55 am --

Here is the part of the article that cites the Chicago Manuel of Style.

"Today the Chicago Manual, now in its 16th edition, says: “When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma—known as the serial or series comma or the Oxford comma—should appear before the conjunction. Chicago strongly recommends this widely practiced usage, blessed by Fowler and other authorities, since it prevents ambiguity.”

It also states that the differences of opinion started with the incorrect assumption that a comma took the place of an omitted word. Since a comma and the conjuction and would then be redundant. This has been embraced by news papers and certain publishers. But it is not viewed as correct in US English.
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Post by moderntimes » 17 Aug 2015, 14:48

Excellent help, blue! I had previously thought that the serial comma is now verboten for both US and Brit, but apparently it's only Brit preferred, plus I do see it missing in newspapers and online news articles. Thanks for citing the text from the stylebook.

I remember slightly the terse stylebook from the KC Star where I strung** and its emphasis on brevity and short sentences. But of course, one of the journalists who contributed to that stylebook was this guy, mmm, I forget his name... oh, yeah, Ernest Hemingway!

** For those who don't know, "stringing" for a newspaper means that you contribute piecework and are paid by the submissions, but aren't on staff.

I also want to point out that the true "Oxford comma" is NOT exactly that as described in the Chicago stylebook. That is the "serial comma" such as:

He bought red, green, and blue paint.

The serial comma being the comma after "green" and before the "and". But the true "Oxford" comma is NOT a deleted comma but in fact an included comma in a mixed list where you've got paired items and they are correctly grouped by comma placement. Refere to the "fish and chips" sentence I quoted above, taken straight from the Oxford style guide.

Funny isn't it, gang, all this hoopla over a single little pesky swoopy punctuation mark? I'll be frank -- I really don't give a damn. But stylebooks are stylebooks for a reason, to follow. Which is why I spent a few hours (some might say "wasted hours") revising my 3 novels for the publisher. At least with MS-Word "replace" it's easy.
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Post by bluemel4 » 17 Aug 2015, 15:16

The citation is actually from the article I posted. Here it is again for easy reference. http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2011/ ... mma-2.html

The Oxford comma and a serial comma are one in the same. Therefore it is still correct to use it in a list of three or more.

I think it is important to do the research and make sure if you are posting something as rule to "get with the times" then it better be accurate.
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