Ooligan Press

Ooligan is a not for profit general trade press that publishes books honoring the cultural and natural diversity of the Pacific Northwest.

  • Usage Can be Funny: Some Unintentionally Humorous Examples of Why the Oxford Comma isImportant

    Ooligan editors, per in-house style guide, always place a comma before the final item in a series of threeor more items (typically preceding an and, an or, or a nor). This is called the Oxford comma or the serialcomma. The Oxford comma has long been the subject of fierce and bloody debate among combatantsin the usage wars.

    Ooligan’s adoption of the Oxford comma is based on the recommendation of TheChicago Manual of Style—the style and usage Bible for non-journalistic writers (journalists follow the APStylebook suggestion to omit the serial comma, presumably to save space).

    Oxford-haters say the serialcomma is ugly and superfluous; most people outside of editors and academics don’t notice or care aboutthe debated punctuation mark. So why should we use the Oxford comma, anyway? There are plenty ofpro-comma arguments; take, for example, these humorous instances of ambiguity created by the lack ofa serial comma:

    · “I’d like to thank my parents, Jesus and Oprah Winfrey.” (Besides suggesting that a child was bornto Jesus and Oprah, the lack of a serial comma also implies that Jesus’s last name is Winfrey.)

    ·“A notorious gambler, Charlie Sheen owed money to his ex-wives, Billy Bob Thornton and HughGrant.”

    ·“This award is dedicated to my good friends, Young Jeezy and God.”

    ·“…highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigodand a dildo collector.” (Note: this is a real example from The Times of London.)

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    • http://kooztop5.blogspot.com Kooz

      These are great examples of why the Oxford comma is so important. I stumbled onto your site because I was just writing about this, and did a funny piece with a few examples from Facebook and other places (you can check it out here: http://kooztop5.blogspot.com/2012/03/top-5-proofs-that-commas-are-important.html). Good stuff…

    • Keith

      I would be interested in knowing whether there has been a debate on the similar topic of multiple occurrences of “and” (also occasionally “or”) in one sentence. To me it doesn’t read well but it is a modern writing disease.

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