14 June 2008

Who cares about the “Oxford Comma”?

Yes, I'm too ashamed to make a more direct allusion to the Vampire Weekend song in my title. Disregarding the embarrassingly catchy vulgarities in their song, I commend this band for actually writing about the very important punctuation mark often called the "Oxford comma" (Even though the song does seem to be making fun of grammar-conscious people like me . . . but that all depends on your interpretation).

There aren’t a great many things that I feel very passionately about. But this oft-neglected comma is one of them.

The following passage from my textbook about the serial comma is an emotionally-charged rebuttal of stupid people. It kind of loses its punch at the end, but, regardless, it gives some very good reasons why we should KEEP THE SERIAL COMMA! I would even picket with a sign to keep this comma, if I thought it would do any good:

“Perhaps [some writers leave out the serial comma] on the assumption that the conjunction substitutes for the comma. But it really does not. In fact, this punctuation misleads the reader in two ways: It implies a closer connection than actually exists between the last two elements of the series, and it ignores the pitch change, however slight, represented by the comma. The main purpose of punctuation, after all, is to represent graphically the meaningful speech signals—pitch, stress (loudness), and juncture (pauses)—that the written language otherwise lacks. That small pitch change represented by the comma can make a difference in emphasis and meaning.” (Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar, 7th ed., emphasis added)

LOTS OF GOOD THINGS COME FROM OXFORD, by the way. Just thought I'd point that out.


rachel b. said...

I must admit that I don't know what an Oxford comma is, nor do I know what a serial comma is, but I will gladly picket with you if you need more comma support. But you put an apostrophe in "lots." Snort.

rachel b. said...

I retract my criticism of your apostrophe usage, and now that I know what a serial comma is, I am totally in support of it! Really!

Michael said...

Lots does not use an apostrophe.... I love this song and used always used oxford commas. Which is funny because I just learned what they are, haha.

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