The purpose of the Oxford Comma...
Thread poster: Bryan Crumpler

Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:36
Dutch to English
+ ...
Sep 28, 2011

...and why American English prefers to use it.

http://cdn.thegloss.com/files/2011/09/jfk.jpg

Know your commas people!!! =)


 

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 23:36
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
I can think of... Sep 28, 2011

...a couple (non-native) reviewers who should read this article very carefully! Grrr!

Thanks Bryan!

Nancy


 

F Scott Ophof  Identity Verified
Belize
Local time: 21:36
Dutch to English
+ ...
Intriguing and confusing Sep 28, 2011

Bryan Crumpler wrote:
...and why American English prefers to use it.
http://cdn.thegloss.com/files/2011/09/jfk.jpg
Know your commas people!!! =)

That second example is a very intriguing way of using commas. As Eng-US speaker I would never ever have used a comma to imply a colon. In fact, I would have left out the comma AND the colon.
And I grew up thinking the Oxford comma was used by Eng-GB speakers. And NOT by the Eng-US speakers. Thank you so much for the extra source of confusion, Bryan; I really needed it. [grin]

While we're at it, how about 'No dogs please'? And if there should be no comma, why?

Regards,
Scott


 

Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:36
French to English
+ ...
Interesting perspective Sep 28, 2011

I don't use the lately renounced Oxford comma, but perhaps in the case above the CONTEXT might make the intended meaning clearicon_smile.gif

 

Alexander Onishko  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:36
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
* Sep 28, 2011

NancyLynn wrote:

...a couple (non-native) reviewers who should read this article very carefully! Grrr!

Thanks Bryan!

Nancy


"non-native reviewers"?! how is that?


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 05:36
English to Russian
+ ...
Another classic example Sep 28, 2011

Allegedly, one author dedicated his book as follows:

"To my parents, Ayn Rand and God"


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:36
Hebrew to English
Comma madness... Sep 29, 2011

I loved that picture! I've even been a thief and stole iticon_smile.gif

However, I don't always use the Oxford comma. Here in England it can be considered "wrong" and as I'm not long out of University I always had to err on the side of who was marking my work and therefore I'm used to leaving it out.

I have used it on occasion, but most lists are more clear than the example in the picture so it is possible not to use it.

While on the lighter side of punctuation, the comedian Omid Djalili did a small sketch (spoof) called : "Apostrophes for Africa"
www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH16iwJBN98


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:36
German to English
serial comma Sep 29, 2011

Edit: comma error corrected

Hello everyone,
Any reasonable person who does not use the serial/Oxford comma would write "We invited jfk, stalin and the strippers.

I've seen a reply to the cartoon: "We invited the stripper, jfk, and stalin." However, any reasonable person who uses the serial/Oxford comma would write "We invited jfk, stalin, and the stripper."

The Ayn Rand example is better because the order is important: "to Ayn Rand, my parents and God" would be a different statement. But what if - to borrow another example - the dedication were to "my mother, Ayn Rand, and God"? Then it is the serial comma that makes things ambiguous. Just write "to my parents, to Ayn Rand, and to God" or "to my parents, to Ayn Rand and to God" and there is no more ambiguity.

Why do people get so worked up about this? The only system that I don't like is that of generally using no serial comma, but inserting one if it is relevant for the proper understanding of the sentence. This is a bad rule, because it is a complicated solution to a very simple problem.

Just write clearly and use the serial comma for the US and omit it for the UK - unless you are adhering to Oxford Style.

More or less sincerely,
Michael

PS: The cartoon is funny.

PPS: "We invited the strippers jfk and stalin" is also an interesting point = actually correct if the question on the reader's mind is "Which strippers?".

PPPS: I think it ought to be: "No dogs, please," because the "please" is not essential to the meaning of the sentence and "No dogs please," could theoretically be the declaration of a cat lover (please = verb).


[Edited at 2011-09-29 13:09 GMT]


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:36
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
God's sister Sep 29, 2011

Re the absence of commas, there's a monument in an old church near here that reads (carved in stone):

"To God and his sister Nora this monument is respectfully dedicated by General XXX".

Mmm, something for Dan Brown to consider for his next blockbuster, perhaps?

Jenny


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:36
German to English
+ ...
Funny, Bryan Sep 29, 2011

You might also like The Oatmeal:

http://theoatmeal.com/tag/grammar


 


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