To Use the Oxford Comma, or not to use the Oxford Comma, That is the Question

Okay, so maybe I tweaked the Shakespeare quote a bit, but it is a valid question. In short, it all comes down to preference and style. But you’re not here for the short version, right?

What is the “Oxford comma”, anyway? (Also known as a “serial comma” or “Harvard comma”.) It’s a punctuation mark between the second – to – last item in a list and a conjunction (“and”, “or”, “but”).

For example, someone might say: “I want apples, bread, milk, and eggs.” In this sentence, I used the Oxford comma; the one between “milk” and “and”.

People who don’t use the Oxford comma would write the example sentence like this: “I want apples, bread, milk and eggs.”

Both examples are grammatically correct in English. Just don’t tell that to an English teacher. Everyone has a preference on the matter, even the English language “authorities.” Case in point, this article or this video. The latter explains what I’m trying to say quite well.

While the debate rages on, this really comes down to personal taste and/or the way you were raised and taught. When I was in elementary school, my writing teacher let us choose if we wanted to use, or not use, the Oxford comma. So I tend to use it ‘til this day.

Not all languages are as undecided on the issue, though. Some, like Spanish, Hebrew, and a bunch of others, don’t have an Oxford comma at all.

To translate either of my examples into Spanish, for example, I would write the following: “Quiero manzanas, pan, leche y huevos.” And it would stay punctuated that way, no matter how the original English equivalent used the Oxford comma.

So, do you use the Oxford comma in your everyday writing, or is it something you choose to omit? Let us know in the comments!

One Reply to “To Use the Oxford Comma, or not to use the Oxford Comma, That is the Question”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *