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STUDY: Oxford Commas for Grammar Snobs Only (Ironically)

serial comma kayne

Who gives a f*ck about an Oxford comma?

We do. Because we’re snooty.

Number-crunching blog for the OCD-compliant FiveThirtyEight.com released a mind-numbing study that will cause curse words to be hurled in PR and ad agencies nationwide. Its key finding: only the grammar snobs in America embrace the Oxford Comma.

This may fly in the face of copywriters and flacks alike who have been taught by the “So, let’s talk journalism and … SQUIRREL!!” experts at the AP Stylebook, but here we are: If you like writing, you love the serial comma.

And it’s not even close.

Ever spent days poring over a document and hit that final punctuation mark with a proud grin on your face? You might dislocate your elbow patting yourself on the back. Surely you ask your team to proofread it–but what’s the use? They won’t find anything because you wrote it.

And then it happens: You had fat fingers here. You left out a word (or two) there. Admit it, we all have that experience. I do — just ask this guy. One day, my lovely bride and I even got into a casual spat over this abominable Oxford comma.

This graph from FiveThirtyEight is her cheering section:

comma-grammar

I love to write; some days, I’m even good at it. But I hate the serial comma. Confused? From the article:

I asked two pros —  John McIntyre, the longtime editor behind the “You Don’t Say” language blog at The Baltimore Sun and author of “The Old Editor Says”; and Merrill Perlman, an adjunct professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, 25-year veteran of The New York Times(,) and owner of an editorial consulting company.

“I don’t know,” Perlman said in an email, “but I suspect it comes down to what people were taught and when. Most of us learned grammar as rules, often accompanied by raps on the knuckle when an ungrammatical sentence escaped our mouths. That can really instill deep loyalty to the rule.”

McIntyre is more blunt: “Feigned passion about the Oxford comma, when not performed for comic effect, is mere posturing.”

Ignore the vitriol and look at that first graph. See the parenthetical comma from the author Walt Hickey? Funny to the grammar snobs out there, but not so much to the rest of the public.

“It doesn’t make sense,” “The last word is not part of that thought,” and “You’re the one who does this?”

Hickey writes in the post: “So, does it matter? Can there ever be peace?” If you are married, yes and yes. It comes with the age-old aphorism: You have two ears and one mouth. Listen first, speak second (,) and choose wisely.

You may surprise yourself into conversion. Now, go and sin no more.

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