Monday, November 20, 2006

The Oxford Comma

I love the Oxford comma. It disambiguates, conforms to speech patterns, and just makes me feel good.

I'm sure some of you are wondering what the #$@# an Oxford comma is. Well, I could leave you to click the link, or I could explain it to you:

Suppose you were going on a picnic with your brothers and sister and their twenty-two children. Suppose you were making the sandwiches, and you wanted your myriad nieces and nephews to choose their sandwiches from a list. Your list might look like this:
Tuna Salad
Cheese
Hummus
Lettuce and Tomato
Lox and Cream Cheese
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Cream Cheese

Now if you wrote it into a list without using the Oxford comma, you end up with this:
The sandwiches available for today's picnic are tuna salad, cheese, hummus, lettuce and tomato, lox and cream cheese, peanut butter and jelly and cream cheese.

So is that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a jelly and cream cheese sandwich? (Trust me, my mom is fully capable of making either option, and many of my siblings will eat them both.)

Now if you use the Oxford comma, here's your sentence:
The sandwiches available for today's picnic are tuna salad, cheese, hummus, lettuce and tomato, lox and cream cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and cream cheese.

See? Now we're perfectly clear as to what's available for those last two sandwich types.

This is why I love the Oxford Comma.

Now I'm off to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

t.c.

2 comments:

Ira said...

Grammar? punctuation? that's all we get? come on, I'm sure your life is more interesting than comma sandwiches...

luckluster said...

I prefer using semicolon in that case, this way, the items can include and and commas at the same time.

Semicolon - your personal disambiguator!