Dear the AP Style Guide,
I hate you, even though I have an abbreviated version of your writing manual saved to my toolbar. You are so smart and well spoken, and yet so incredibly unfashionable and vain. No no, I don’t care that you make me spell out numbers under 10 or that you wouldn’t let me use the percent symbol even if I begged, but we’ve got some talking to do about the Oxford Comma.
Actually, better yet, I’ll talk (err, type) and you listen. I’ve got a bone to pick with you about why you insist on ruining lives and telling people not to use the Oxford Comma,
The Oxford Comma, aka the serial comma, got its name from the Oxford University Press.
As pointed out in the video, use of the Oxford Comma is ambiguous, and preference is the only standard for its use. Most educational and intellectual writing says “use it!” while journalists prefer to not. And this is why I hate you, AP Style Guide, because you tell me that I’m not supposed to put the most necessary and helpful punctuation in the space after the conjunctions in my articles.
I read and write everyday, like most functioning people of society. Most individuals run into the Oxford Comma on a daily basis and don’t even realize it, and how can you fight for something you don’t know that you love?
For those of you that don’t know, or don’t realize that you do know, the Oxford Comma is what brings us clarity in writing, and is best explained through (funny) examples.
The Oxford comma erases the ambiguity of that sentence, and we are sure that Washington and Lincoln are not, in fact, rhinoceri. Now just think: if you and your dumb rules had their way, we’d all be going on safari to try and find an illusive presidential-rhinoceros.
So, AP Style Guide, what do you say; how about we make that little piece of concave punctuation the standard of writing? What’s that? Just one sentence isn’t enough proof? Let me show you another:
See, commas are important, even regardless of Oxford status. But when we do need the comma in an Oxford-y way (and it is forgotten or left out intentionally for some reason), hilarity ensues:
But wait, there’s more (my personal favorite):
See? If the AP Style Guide had it’s way we would live in a mad, mad world.
The Oxford Comma (or lack thereof) isn’t just there so us grammar nerds can make fun of the not-so grammatically-inclined writers when they make a mistake. It also makes things make sense to regular people who are just trying to coast through life and understand what others are writing. For example, if I told you that my favorite TV shows were ” Orange is the New Black, Law and Order and Parks and Recreation,” you’d be super confused! Am I for some reason enamored with a show called “Law and Order and Parks?” Or is there some guy out there making a killing off of his weird brainchild “Order and Parks and Recreation?”
Without the Oxford Comma, if you weren’t up to date on your TV shows, you wouldn’t know what to think! Also, you would probably have a headache because of all of those “ands.” I know I do, and I’m sorry to have to have put you through that.
Also not seen in the pictures above is the problems that can arise from listing names. For example one time I said, “I would like to thank my parents, Matthew McConaughey and God.” Without the Oxford Comma, you’d probably think that my parents are Matthew McConaughey and God, and my real parents, Ryan Reynolds and Jesus, would be insulted. By placing a comma after McConaughey, there is absolutely no confusion as to whom my parents aren’t. Feel free to remain confused as to why I would ever simultaneously thank these three people in writing, but that is not a job for which the Oxford Comma is tasked to clarify.
So why the controversy over a simple comma? Is it genetic? Did someone put a hat on our heads when we were born and it sorted us into Oxford Comma-lovers and Oxford Comma-forsakers?
As Callie Leuck so eloquently puts it, “Religion. Politics. The Oxford Comma. These things should not be discussed in polite company, particularly by people who have strong feelings about them.” And she’s right. I’ve literally been in fights with people over whether or not the Oxford Comma is necessary.
So what can we do? How can we make the world right and give the (smart) people what they want? We can rise up and request that the AP Style Guide, and all other style guides on writing in the English language (that’s right I’m talking to you too, England and Canada), make the Oxford Comma the standard by which we separate our items written in a list. No more ambiguity. No more ifs, ands, or buts.
“But but but…the Oxford Comma takes up so much page space!” cry the traditional journalists.
Okay, that may be true, but let’s be honest: news is going digital, and when the internet is your office, you have all the space in the world for commas of every kind. In addition to that, how much space are you actually saving by leaving out the Oxford Comma?
On the front page of April 13, 2015’s Daily Collegian, there are three places that are missing an Oxford Comma, if the punctuation was used properly by this “news” outlet. Seeing as newspapers are laid out so that their columns all begin and end at the same place, there is more than enough room in the necessary sentences for the addition of the comma. So no, the Oxford Comma does not actually clutter up a page like print journalists like to believe it does, and it certainly doesn’t cause paragraphs of extra text to require additional pages.
Additionally, some say that, because the Oxford Comma is unnesecary, using it makes us sound “snooty.” While that may not be false, who doesn’t want to seem more intellectual than they actually are by just adding a simple comma before a contraction. One of my favorite English terms from high school is “euridite,” and if the Oxford Comma can help me get to that status, I’m all about it.
So “who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma?” Well, Vampire Weekend, I do, and you really should too.
In a world where we already have so many problems with communication, why make things any more difficult or confusing for ourselves by ignoring God’s gift to grammar? What do ya say, AP? From now on, let’s all do the Oxford Comma, and maybe then we can all hate you a little less.
Writer, Comma Aficionado, and Functioning Member of Society