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Guitarguy

Oxford comma

  

18 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you use the Oxford comma?

    • Yes.
      8
    • No.
      5
    • Yeah I don't really even know.
      5


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I'd like to indoctrinate objectively inform you of the irrefutable supermacy logical preference of the Oxford (also known as "serial") comma.

 

For those who might not be familiar with it, it describes the existence, rather than lack of existence, of the comma in a particular syntactic situation. To be specific, when you have a list of three or more things, a user of the Oxford comma puts a comma after every item of the list, whereas an infidel would inconsistently disregard the comma in the last two words.

 

Here's an example.

Superior sentence using the Oxford comma: I like to eat cantaloupe, rock melon, and spanspek.

Inferior sentence foregoing the Oxford comma: I like to eat cantaloupe, rock melon and spanspek.

 

Now that you understand (or, if you don't, take your linguistic inadequacy elsewhere), allow me to make my case.

 

First, it accords with the manner by which we speak. People inherently separate every word in a list with a pause, and if by some weird habit they don't, they should be executed constructively criticized. Spoken language doesn't come from writing; writing comes from spoken language. This aspect is truly a testament to the comma's intrinsic correctness.

 

Second, although this may be taken as a fallacious form of argument, it's called the Oxford comma for a reason. Oxford is like, the most Englishy English place ever. The Oxford dictionary is rightfully considered the most authoritative lexicography. The lack of the Oxford comma doesn't have a name because it describes the not-existing of something, but if it did have a name it'd probably be like the "filthy ill-educated nonexistent comma" or something. In short, it shouldn't exist. Or, it should exist by not existing. You know what I mean.

 

Third, in the most practical and involved argument, it resolves ambiguity. Some argue that there's some situations in which it creates ambiguity, but I'm here to dispel such nonsense.

To begin, let's take a look at an example from Wikipedia in which it does clear ambiguity (aka the more common case):

My usual breakfast is coffee, bacon and eggs and toast.

If we were to smartly place a comma - not just any comma! - after "eggs", it would be logically indisuptable that our usual breakfast includes: 1. coffee, 2. bacon and eggs, and 3. toast. Otherwise, it is painstakingly unclear.

Now to dispel an argument against it. Another Wikipedia example:

To my mother, Ayn Rand, and God.

Supposedly, the comma's utilization is bad here because it gives the possibly mistaken impression that my mother is Ayn Rand. Well, here's how it would look otherwise:

To my mother, Ayn Rand and God.

According to the erroneous aforestated logic, now my mother is both Ayn Rand and God. A naysayer would probably argue that such a proposition is so ridiculous that it couldn't possibly be true, but that contextless clarity is the very core of this debate. I have a solution:

To Ayn Rand, my mother, and God.

Boom. Now everything is cleared up. And if you weren't to use the Oxford comma there, you might think that Ayn Rand is both my mother and God!

 

Finally, let's establish why not only you, but everybody should use the Oxford comma. We can't rightfully continue with this vague mixture throughout the English-speaking world.

I visited my father, a painter and a septuagenarian.

Is your father both a painter and a septuagenarian? Oh, wait, let's see what Oxford comma has to say:

I visited my father, a painter, and a septuagenarian.

This example stresses not only the importance of using it, but the importance of standardizing it. In contrast to the revision, what if your father is a painter and a septuagenarian? If we assume that the Oxford comma has supreme authority, as it should, then we can just change it back to the first sentence. Alas, as things stand, we might assume that the first sentence is written by a peasant who disregards the Oxford comma, and it could mean either thing. At the moment, unfortunately, we'll have to consult my under-construction list of everybody in the world according to who does and doesn't use the comma.

 

But wait, there's still an argument against the Oxford comma's use!:

"It saves a totally reasonable amount of space." ~The deteriorating newspaper industry

Yeah, there's no conflict of interest here at all. It isn't as if this applies almost exclusively to newspapers in the modern age. It isn't as if every supporter of it (excluding the simply foolish) are long-lasting journalist groups: The New York Times, The Times, the Associated Press, the Canadian Press.

 

To conclude, the only opposers of the glorious Oxford comma are journalists, the intellectually inferior and the inconsiderate.

Edited by Guitarguy

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I just make lists with semicolons because that's why they exist and it removes basically all the ambiguity.

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You will either become a proofreader, a fact checker, or a statistician.

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To my Ayn Rand, my mother, and God. Boom. Now everything is cleared up. And if you weren't to use the Oxford comma there, you might think that Ayn Rand is both my mother and God!

I don't want to complain, but it still looks like Ayn Rand is my mother.

 

oxford comma is incorrect (in Dutch)

Huh. Did not know that.

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To my Ayn Rand, my mother, and God. Boom. Now everything is cleared up. And if you weren't to use the Oxford comma there, you might think that Ayn Rand is both my mother and God!

I don't want to complain, but it still looks like Ayn Rand is my mother.

 

oxford comma is incorrect (in Dutch)

Huh. Did not know that.

the first example: x, y and z is correct

the other isn't (as far as I know)

I'll verify with the significant other (aka the grammar nazi) when I get home :P

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Considering that it's just as likely to cause more ambiguity ("highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod[,] and a dildo collector.") as it is to prevent it, the sensible option would be to use another symbol to when punctuating lists (arguably a semi-colon).

 

Of course, we all know that linguists are far from the most sensible of people, so we're likely doomed to carry on mired in ambiguity until everyone solves their petty disputes about which they prefer (if that ever happens).

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I just make lists with semicolons because that's why they exist and it removes basically all the ambiguity.

The way in which you worded that makes it seem as if you make lists entirely with semicolons, but I'm sure you understand. That is a good point indeed, because using semicolons in a list properly accords with the Oxford comma. If my father is a painter and a septuagenarian:

I visited my father; a painter; and a septuagenarian.

If you oppose the existence of the Oxford comma, there's no way to clear this up; there have to be two semicolons, and the infidels would only be permitted to use one.

 

To my Ayn Rand, my mother, and God. Boom. Now everything is cleared up. And if you weren't to use the Oxford comma there, you might think that Ayn Rand is both my mother and God!

I don't want to complain, but it still looks like Ayn Rand is my mother.

Whoops, I made this unclear. Following the point made above, it would be best to clear things up with the use of semicolons: To Ayn Rand; my mother; and God. In this example, Ayn Rand is indisputably my mother. Otherwise, there are three separate people. I should have mentioned the semicolon in my main post.

 

oxford comma is incorrect (in Dutch)

Huh. Did not know that.

From what I've heard, it's incorrect in a lot of languages that aren't English. Perhaps there's some grammatical structure exclusive to English that makes things this way, but this is one of very few situations in which I believe English to be more sensible. -.-

 

I apologize for not having elaborated upon the utilization of the semicolon in my main post. That would have made things clearer.

Edited by Guitarguy

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Who gives a fudge about an Oxford comma? I've seen those English dramas too.

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Completely unrelated but they're an awesome band. ^_^

 

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I used an Oxford comma once in fourth grade, got it marked wrong. Now I just do it the normal way.

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oxford comma is incorrect (in Dutch)

Huh. Did not know that.

From what I've heard, it's incorrect in a lot of languages that aren't English. Perhaps there's some grammatical structure exclusive to English that makes things this way, but this is one of very few situations in which I believe English to be more sensible. -.-

checked with my resident grammar nazi and she confirmed it to be incorrect in Dutch

Edited by Egghebrecht

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I used an Oxford comma once in fourth grade, got it marked wrong.

Where's Guitarguy when you need him? :/

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I used an Oxford comma once in fourth grade, got it marked wrong. Now I just do it the normal way.

My fourth grade teacher tried to tell me I wasn't a polar bear, so we know what kind of person not to trust.

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oxford comma is incorrect (in Dutch)

Huh. Did not know that.

From what I've heard, it's incorrect in a lot of languages that aren't English. Perhaps there's some grammatical structure exclusive to English that makes things this way, but this is one of very few situations in which I believe English to be more sensible. -.-

checked with my resident grammar nazi and she confirmed it to be incorrect in Dutch

This is good to know, I do have a tendency to use it (and now I know incorrectly).

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I don't use it simply out of habit (or lack of habit?). Was never a requirement in any grade level I can remember. My English professor said that she didn't care whether we use it or not.

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I was learned that a semicolon is only appropriate in lists containing commas.

 

I've been to Dallas, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; and Bermuda, Ocean.

Although that makes sense I've actually never seen that before 0.o

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Why don't we just all agree that semicolons are the best thing in the world?

 

better than cantaloupe

kwPnsTx.png

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Completely unrelated but they're an awesome band. ^_^

 

Phoenix knows what's up.

 

 

As Bob walked into the VIP room, he was greeted by the strippers, Al and Ted.

 

As Bob walked into the VIP room, he was greeted by the strippers, Al, and Ted.

 

Which would you rather spend $200 on?

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As Bob walked into the VIP room, he was greeted by the strippers, Al and Ted.

 

As Bob walked into the VIP room, he was greeted by the strippers, Al, and Ted.

 

Which would you rather spend $200 on?

If it was shu i think i know which would be prefered

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Since we're talking about grammar, capitalization is always important. There's a difference between helping your uncle jack off a horse and helping your uncle Jack off a horse.

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Since we're talking about grammar, capitalization is always important. There's a difference between helping your uncle jack off a horse and helping your uncle Jack off a horse.

LOOL thats like the one where uhhh

Let's eat uncle Sam and Let's eat, uncle sam.

 

 

Is uncle capitalized?

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Since we're talking about grammar, capitalization is always important. There's a difference between helping your uncle jack off a horse and helping your uncle Jack off a horse.

LOOL thats like the one where uhhh

Let's eat uncle Sam and Let's eat, uncle sam.

 

Is uncle capitalized?

Nouns that refer to people are capitalized whenever it is used as a name grammatically. For example, "My mother is going to the store" and "Mother is going to the store" are both correct. Think, could I replace the person with a proper name? "My Jeff is going to the store" is incorrect, so no. However, "Jeff is going to the store" is correct.

Therefore, it's "Uncle Sam" in both examples.

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