The Oxford comma.


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Thread: The Oxford comma.

  1. #1

    The Oxford comma.

    Hello, I'm preparing a speech on the Oxford comma (aka the serial comma or Harvard comma).

    One of the claimed "cons" of the Oxford comma is that it can create confusion. I'm looking for good examples of that. When I search on the Internet, I find cases where it clears up confusion. Perhaps my search terms are bad, or I'm looking at the wrong thing.

    Any help would be appreciated.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    — Robert G. Allen

  2. #2
    In some circumstances the serial-comma convention can introduce ambiguity. An example would be a dedication reading:

    To my mother, Ayn Rand, and God

    The serial comma after Ayn Rand creates ambiguity about the writer's mother because it uses punctuation identical to that used for an appositive phrase, leaving it unclear whether this is a list of three entities (1, my mother; 2, Ayn Rand; and 3, God) or of only two entities (1, my mother, who is Ayn Rand; and 2, God). Without a serial comma, the above dedication would read: To my mother, Ayn Rand and God, a phrase ambiguous only if the reader accepts the interpretation my mother, who is both Ayn Rand and God. Other ways of eliminating the ambiguity are possible; for instance, additional prepositions could be used (To my mother, to Ayn Rand, and to God) or the order could be rearranged (To my mother, God, and Ayn Rand).
    From wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma

  3. #3
    I saw that. The fact that it works better with prepositions sorta invalidates it to my mind, as a good example. Maybe I should reconsider.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    — Robert G. Allen

  4. #4
    As an ardent supporter of the Oxford comma, I commend you for taking on this topic, wish you well, and doubt you will find many examples of it causing confusion.
    Wisdom is seldom boisterous.

    -- a guy I know --

    If you're into hillbilly themed pornography (and, really, who ISN'T these days?), check out Hidden Content and Hidden Content . There's no pornography, but everything IS written by a hillbilly.

  5. #5
    We're supposed to "inoculate" the audience with the con side of whatever we're trying to persuade them to support. I can see this will be tough.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    — Robert G. Allen

  6. #6
    Darn these distracting queries

    This has been nagging at the periphery of my mind since you posted it. What struck me today is that perhaps your thrust is misleading in its narrowness. Any misplaced or assumed commas can affect reading.

    Now, the question of an Oxford comma in a simple example might seem to be innocuous at worst, as in its definition: a comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’ (e.g., an Italian painter, sculptor, and architect).

    More commonly in my experiences, I've often been told a comma is not needed in a sentence because it should be assumed (as before and). Similarly I've been told a sentence doesn't make sense, because the reader assumed a comma. Being an uneducated and stubborn old fart I politely ignore such advice, because I include commas to indicate how I think a sentence should be read. If they choose to read the sentence differently (or don't have as much breath ), that's their problem.

    Take the following sentence (aside from whatever else you might think wrong with it) as an example of how assumed commas at best distort the thought flow.

    It reminded him of the normal ups and downs of give and take in the natural oder that Neil had gone on about, and contrasted with the introduction of a superior predator that lived high off the hog, eroding sustaining inhabitants till it was diminished by the forces of change it hastened through excesses.

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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by astroannie View Post
    Hello, I'm preparing a speech on the Oxford comma (aka the serial comma or Harvard comma).

    One of the claimed "cons" of the Oxford comma is that it can create confusion. I'm looking for good examples of that. When I search on the Internet, I find cases where it clears up confusion. Perhaps my search terms are bad, or I'm looking at the wrong thing.

    Any help would be appreciated.
    Are you sure you haven't misheard?

    One of the pros of the Oxford comma is that it removes confusion.
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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  8. #8
    An editor added a comma to one sentence in a work and made a mish-mash of the meaning.
    Written: "Enn, that obnoxious ass will destroy my research!"
    She changed it to; "Enn, that obnoxious ass, will destroy my research!"
    Now tell me the placement of a comma isn't really critical. She was talking with Enn.
    As for the placement of a comma before "and," I seldom do. I don't place it before any conjunction except "but." I only use it there because it's established. After all, the comma is to indicate that a conjunction is understood. Using it before "and" is like saying "The four things to remember are plot, flow, rhythm and and connection."
    In other words, it is redundant when used before a conjunction.

  9. #9
    No, it isn't redundant.

    I dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

    It removes confusion. Otherwise, that's one hell of a family you've got.
    Hidden Content

    Hidden Content

    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  10. #10
    The Oxford Comma: What It Is and When To Use It

    suite.io/steve-rogerson/3ka72qd CachedThe Oxford Comma is the comma in a list that goes before the "and" or "or" that precedes the ... Most schools in England, ... Serial comma; Oxford Comma; Oxford ...

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