Insights
1 min Read
July 20, 2011

We Give a Duck About an Oxford Comma

Big Duck uses the Oxford comma (sometimes known as the serial comma) when writing. In other words, we put a comma before the and in any list of three or more.

The serial comma rule is formalized in our in-house style guide. Ducks who miss the serial comma (when writing for our blog, for example) face my wrath. And my father was a minister who worked for years alongside another minister named Rath, so I know what I’m talking about. (Pastor Rath was quite kind, actually.)

Anyway, last week, when the news started spreading that the Oxford style guide claimed their own comma was no longer necessary, Jenna raised the issue with me. I’ve been busier than usual the past couple of weeks, so I believe my knee-jerk response was, “I don’t care. We’re still using it.”

I haven’t had much of a chance to look into the full story. Thankfully, this morning, I read a defense of the Oxford comma that I couldn’t agree with more. Go there and read it.

Writing about writing, grammar, and punctuation invites scrutiny, not to mention snarky comments from grammarians. So it may come as no surprise that a couple of inconsistencies in the original post are receiving some negative attention in the comments section of her blog.

Even so, I offer my full-throated support of the content and the writer’s premise, and her explanation is very good.

You may have perfectly legitimate reasons for not using the Oxford comma. For example, in general, newspapers don’t use it (it’s my one beef with the AP Stylebook). So if you work in and around media a lot (such as sending out press releases), it might make sense for you to skip that serial comma, as much as it pains me to say so.

But if you haven’t really thought about formalizing a rule at your organization, the most important thing for us nonprofiteers is always clarity. And Oxford commas help you be clear.

Write well, fans of the 501(c)3.

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