Panic Erupts over Potential Loss of the Oxford Comma

One of the most beloved and hated punctuation marks of our time, the Oxford (or "serial") comma was briefly living on the edge of obscurity. As all business communication instructors likely know, the Oxford comma is the last in a series, for example, "a, b, and c" instead of "a, b and c." It's usefulness is touted by many and illustrated in this example (NPR): "'I met a realtor, a DJ, a surfer, and a pharmaceutical salesperson.' (In this sentence, I am on The Bachelorette.)" 

Twitter rumors had The University of Oxford dropping the comma for good; however, it has merely continued its practice of omitting the comma in press releases and internal communications (which matches journalistic standards). The university's style guide for books is in tact, recommending the comma for clarity. Whew!

For a humorous -- but obscene -- music video, watch "Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend. The lyrics include "Who gives a ---- about an Oxford Comma?"


Discussion Starters:

  • What are the arguments for and against the Oxford comma?
  • Think of a few sentences for which the comma would add clarity.