Holy Kaw!

All the topics that interest us.

The Oxford comma: Decried, defended, and debated [infographic]

oxford-comma

No matter what side of the Oxford comma debate you find yourself on, you’ll be surprised to find out that Oxford’s own PR department doesn’t even use the punctuation anymore, but that’s only the beginning of the fun facts about the controversial comma in this infographic from OnlineSchools.com.

Via OnlineSchools.com.

Make your mark with infographics.

Posted by

22 Comments

  • Don Montalvo

    I thought the Oxford comma was a choice depending on the situation?

  • Kim

    Love this! Not only the design, but the content, as well (did I use those commas properly?).

  • Kim, wrong use of comma…. I was taught in school NOT to use a comma before ‘and’. I went to one of the best English schools. If you need an Oxford comma to clarify, your sentence needs re-writing. Theexample with oprah and Clinton is ridiculous.

    • Sherlock

      While the following example is not the only grammatical error in what, I assume, you believe to be a sentence, I do believe that a proper name, such as ‘Oprah’, is deserving of capitalization. Sometimes the need for clarification is much more important than the speed with which a person can press the send button.

  • Paul Markey

    No, the second one is unnecessary!

  • Same old unbelievable weak arguments for NOT using the Oxford comma:

    1) save 1 character (when would you ever use that excuse otherwise?)

    2) you don’t ALWAYS need it to be clear (but sometimes you DO – yet to see an example where using the Oxford comma makes anything LESS clear, so why not just stick with the rule)

    3) [from comments – all due respect but…] I wasn’t taught that way (well, you could have been taught in a school that instructs people on creationism instead of evolution, so does that end up being a good defence? No, in case you’re wondering. :-) )

    Can’t understand why any formal writing manual would reject the use of the Oxford comma.

    Another example I always use that shows what clarity the Oxford comma can bring is to just list several government departments without using an Oxford comma and see how understandable it is: Labor, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development.

    PS: All that said, I would love to hear of some dependable punctuation for bulleted/numbered lists like I’ve written above – now THAT brings in some ambiguity, IMHO.

    • I’m totally with you, Jeff! It clarifies 100x more than it would ever confuse.

      I used to work for a publisher that didn’t use the serial comma. Now I work for one that does, and I’d never write without it again.

      In response to some of the other comments here: There is no absolute right or wrong, and it doesn’t matter what you were taught in school. In reality, there are two different schools of thought on it, and you need to follow whichever one your publisher or company has chosen to follow. And if you’re just a reader, well then, you have to accept whatever you get at the moment.

    • Pete Cordell

      Re: “I would love to hear of some dependable punctuation for bulleted/numbered lists like I’ve written above”

      I’ve heard of semi-colons coming to the rescue here for what is effectively a list of lists. The result, I guess, is “Labor, Health, and Human Services; and Housing, and Urban Development”. I imagine the ‘Oxford semi-colon’ is even more controversial though!

    • paul613

      Thank you, jeffmacarthur, for lancing the “logic” of that tired excuse, “I was always taught…” I was always taught that Pluto is a planet and all forms of life fell under one of two kingdoms: Animal or Plant. Now biologist recognize five distinct kingdoms…maybe more.

      In the 1980s, someone published what I still regard as the definitive defense of the Oxford comma. The defense was published in Technical Communication, the quarterly journal of the Society for Technical Communication. I wish I could find it now. It remains the most complete, vigorous, and unapologetic defense I’ve seen. But jeffmacarthur’s is a close second.

  • elisha

    Thank you jeffmacarthur

  • It is not commun to use the comma in that way in Dutch language. I actually never heard of it before I read this article. And it never caused any confusion that I remember of, so why not skip it?

  • […] PR Daily puteți găsi un infografic interesant legat de această problematică situație gramaticală, infografic preluat de la […]

  • […] The Oxford comma: Decried, defended, and debated [infographic] (holykaw.alltop.com) […]

  • I notice that in modern Australian style guides, we are usually given the choice. Does it make the sentence easier to understand? Then use it. Is it easy to follow without it? Then don’t.

  • […] The Oxford comma: Decried, defended, and debated [infographic] (holykaw.alltop.com) […]

  • paul613

    The infographic gives conflicting advice. It’s as though its creator is trying to have it both ways. How are we to reconcile this advice, which is conditional:

    “In sentences with a simple list, the meaning can still be clear without it. In sentences with complicated lists, an Oxford comma helps make sense.”

    with this advice, which is unconditional:

    “Most editors agree that the most important thing when using the Oxford comma is to be consistent: Either never use it, or use it every time.”

    So which of the following is true:

    It IS OK to use the serial comma only some of the time.
    or
    It’s NOT OK to use the serial comma only some of the time.

    The first option is a recipe for endless bickering:
    “Some readers will misread it.”
    “Only if they’re idiots.”
    “Well, I misread it. Are you saying I’m an idiot?”

  • […] Click the infographic to read some of the comments. […]

  • Bernard

    In my candid opinion, the oxford comma helps avoid repition of conjuction thereby making a writng interesting to read. I, further align myself with the views of Jeff

  • […] No matter what side of the Oxford comma debate you find yourself on, you'll be surprised to find out that Oxford's own PR department doesn't even use the punctuation anymore, but that's only the be…  […]

  • […] No matter what side of the Oxford comma debate you find yourself on, you'll be surprised to find out that Oxford's own PR department doesn't even use the punctuation anymore, but that's only the be…  […]

  • […] an infographic from OnlineSchools.com explains, the Oxford comma got its name from the Oxford University Press, […]

  • Andrew Rasanen

    Nice infographic. “Why use it” is the clear winner.

Leave a Reply