Comma Drama Ends: Oxford Rule Stands

Grammar nerds rallied to defense of serial comma
By Sarah Whitmire,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2011 1:13 PM CDT

(Newser) – Grammar fiends took a ride on an emotional roller coaster this week on news, erroneous as it turned out, that Oxford University was ditching its famous comma rule. (It requires a comma before the word "and" in a series: Not "a, b and c" but "a, b, and c.") Writers rallied to the rule's defense, including Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. It "is one of the sanest punctuation usages in the written language," she writes. "It gives each element of a series its own distinct place in it, instead of lumping the last two together in one hasty breath."

It also played out on Twitter, notes AP, where one user demonstrated how the comma can avoid ambiguity: “For teaching me that the Oxford comma resolves ambiguity, I'd like to thank my parents, Sinead O'Connor and the Pope.” (O'Connor and the pope are most definitely not his parents.) After the outcry, Oxford said everyone had overreacted, explaining the style change applied only to press releases and internal communication—and that it's actually a few years old. Writes Alison Flood at the Guardian: "While I'm not a particular fan of the Oxford comma ... I am strangely moved by the fact that so many people are. Happy days indeed, that punctuation can be such an emotive subject."

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