Yesterday news broke on Twitter and our sister blog GalleyCat that Oxford University Press was doing away with its namesake comma, eliciting wails of collective grief from grammar nerds throughout the interwebs.
Mercifully, the report wasn’t exactly true. The Oxford University Press Style Guide remains the same. It was only the University of Oxford publicists that dropped the Oxford comma. And as anyone who has ever read a press release can attest, publicists are hardly the definitive word on punctuation.
Also known as the serial comma, the Oxford comma is defined by the OUP as the “comma before and or or in a list of three or more items.” It has plenty of supporters and detractors both, as yesterday’s premature obituary revealed.
Slate.com’s Mary Elizabeth Williams is a fan, and she notes others:
Like evangelicals with “John 3:16” bumper stickers on their SUVs, punctuation worshippers cling to CM 6.19 – the Chicago Manual of Style’s decree that “in a series consisting of three or more elements, the elements are separated by commas. When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series, a comma is used before the conjunction.” So valuable is that serial comma that it’s on frickin’ page 2 of Strunk and White, right after the possessive apostrophe. And it is good.
There are those who disagree. The AP and New York Times eschew it, and everyone knows what a bunch of hacks that lot is.
Mediabistro is a house divided. This fishie adores the Oxford comma, while GalleyCat editor Jason Boog prefers to write without it. FishbowlLA editor Tina Dupuy calls it a “grammatical booger.”
Play them off, Vampire Weekend.