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(Mental Floss)   Won't someone please honor the valiant warriors, typesetting heroes, and misunderstood veterans of the Oxford Comma Wars?   (mentalfloss.com) divider line 74
    More: Amusing, Oxford comma wars, Best Shots, Oxford University Press, James Thurber, H.L. Mencken, Old Glory, Oxford comma, Chicago Manual of Style  
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5077 clicks; posted to Main » on 23 Jan 2013 at 11:23 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-01-23 10:06:08 AM
1.bp.blogspot.com

Not an oxford comma, but I couldn't resist
 
2013-01-23 10:15:06 AM
"This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God"
I don't care if it's fake, that's hilarious.
 
2013-01-23 11:06:40 AM
"You see me now a veteran of a thousand  comma wars... " just doesn't have the same ring.
 
2013-01-23 11:26:09 AM
There are many positions in Comma Sutra.
 
2013-01-23 11:26:53 AM
It's called a serial comma, and it's worse than Hitler.
 
2013-01-23 11:27:52 AM
People who refuse to use the serial (or Oxford) comma are worse than Hitler.
 
2013-01-23 11:28:39 AM
Comma nazis.
 
2013-01-23 11:31:28 AM
s3-ak.buzzfeed.com
 
2013-01-23 11:31:36 AM
I'm pro-Oxford comma, but that's probably because it was drilled into me as a youngster.
 
2013-01-23 11:32:52 AM
I guess I'm a comma chameleon. I will commas wherever I feel it is necessary.
 
2013-01-23 11:34:01 AM
www.verbicidemagazine.com
 
2013-01-23 11:34:48 AM
Anyway, most of the examples could have been re-worded for clarity.
 
2013-01-23 11:35:28 AM

MNguy: It's called a serial comma, and it's worse than Hitler.


Say what you want about Hitler, he did kill Hitler
 
2013-01-23 11:35:29 AM
I was taught that the comma was optional, and that I was allowed to use my own judgement.
I will continue to do so.
 
2013-01-23 11:37:53 AM
Con: "Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones."

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before "and" can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.


No it doesn't. I read it as five attendees. If there were only four (if Smith was, in fact, the donor), I'd write

"Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, Mr. Smith (the donor of the cup), and Mr. Jones."

Not only that, but why would you write "the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith" if Mr Smith was the donor? Who the hell is Mr Smith? If he hadn't been mentioned earlier, no one would know who "Mr Smith" was, and if he had been previously mentioned, you'd use his name and then point out that he was the donor (as I did) as opposed to essentially saying "by the way, the donor's name happens to be Smith".

Bad example.
 
2013-01-23 11:41:56 AM

ArcadianRefugee: Con: "Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones."

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before "and" can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.

No it doesn't. I read it as five attendees. If there were only four (if Smith was, in fact, the donor), I'd write

"Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, Mr. Smith (the donor of the cup), and Mr. Jones."

Not only that, but why would you write "the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith" if Mr Smith was the donor? Who the hell is Mr Smith? If he hadn't been mentioned earlier, no one would know who "Mr Smith" was, and if he had been previously mentioned, you'd use his name and then point out that he was the donor (as I did) as opposed to essentially saying "by the way, the donor's name happens to be Smith".

Bad example.


Who donated the goddamned cup?
 
2013-01-23 11:42:45 AM
I read that first time through as "coma wars" which, honestly, I think would had made a more interesting story.
 
2013-01-23 11:46:28 AM
Hmmm... it's almost as if you could use the comma when it contributes clarity and leave it out when it detracts....
 
2013-01-23 11:47:44 AM
Con: "Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones."

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before "and" can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.


No, because you would use semicolons in a list when including items separated by a comma to read "the commodore; the fleet captain; Mr. Smith, the donor of the cup; and Mr. Jones." At least, as far as I know I would; use of semicolons in list always shows examples of lists where every item contains a comma such as city, state; name, title; and month day, year, but I see no reason to shift punctuation.
 
2013-01-23 11:51:13 AM

MNguy: Who donated the goddamned cup?


Probably the least important piece of information to include, I'd imagine, but I already demonstrated how such a thing could be while avoiding potential confusion.

The fact is, the use of the serial comma isn't the issue in that sentence, as the question of Mr Smith's donorship would still exist if he were listed earlier in the sequence:

"Those at the ceremony were the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, the commodore, the fleet captain and Mr. Jones."

No serial comma, yet we still don't know if Smith donated the cup or not. Hell, at this point he could be the commodore.
 
2013-01-23 11:51:53 AM

Vangor: Con: "Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones."

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before "and" can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.

No, because you would use semicolons in a list when including items separated by a comma to read "the commodore; the fleet captain; Mr. Smith, the donor of the cup; and Mr. Jones." At least, as far as I know I would; use of semicolons in list always shows examples of lists where every item contains a comma such as city, state; name, title; and month day, year, but I see no reason to shift punctuation.


This. That is a horrible example and in no way reads that Mr. Smith was the donor. You would use semicolons instead of commas in a list that includes a comma'd item.
 
2013-01-23 11:52:07 AM
Semicolon too abused and neglected to comment.
 
2013-01-23 11:52:44 AM

ArcadianRefugee: Con: "Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones."

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before "and" can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.

No it doesn't. I read it as five attendees. If there were only four (if Smith was, in fact, the donor), I'd write

"Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, Mr. Smith (the donor of the cup), and Mr. Jones."

Not only that, but why would you write "the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith" if Mr Smith was the donor? Who the hell is Mr Smith? If he hadn't been mentioned earlier, no one would know who "Mr Smith" was, and if he had been previously mentioned, you'd use his name and then point out that he was the donor (as I did) as opposed to essentially saying "by the way, the donor's name happens to be Smith".

Bad example.


The right way to do it would be to put "the donor of the cup" after the conjunction. "The commodore, the fleet captain, Mr. Jones, and the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith." That's why a lot of these can be cleared up by rearranging the order of the list - if you want to use two nouns to identify one entity, it goes after the conjunction.

The classic "my parents, Ayn Rand, and God" should be three entities, but if you literally meant that Ayn Rand and God got it on and you were the result, you would say "Ayn Rand and God, my parents."

You should still use an Oxford comma, though.
 
2013-01-23 11:53:19 AM

Vangor: No, because you would use semicolons


Oh, don't you start that. They haven't grasped the simple comma, now you want them to put some fancy dot over them too? Next you'll be havin' 'em put them squiggles under their c's or over their n's like the French and Spanish do.
 
2013-01-23 11:54:52 AM
Who gives a fark about an Oxford comma I've seen those English dramas too, They're cruel.

So if there's any other way to spell the word it's fine with me.
 
2013-01-23 11:56:40 AM

phyrkrakr: The right way to do it would be to put "the donor of the cup" after the conjunction. "The commodore, the fleet captain, Mr. Jones, and the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith." That's why a lot of these can be cleared up by rearranging the order of the list - if you want to use two nouns to identify one entity, it goes after the conjunction.

The classic "my parents, Ayn Rand, and God" should be three entities, but if you literally meant that Ayn Rand and God got it on and you were the result, you would say "Ayn Rand and God, my parents."

You should still use an Oxford comma, though.


I dunno about "the right way", but yeah, it would be the simplest (and probably best) way to avoid confusion.
 
2013-01-23 11:56:52 AM

phyrkrakr: ArcadianRefugee: Con: "Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones."

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before "and" can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.

No it doesn't. I read it as five attendees. If there were only four (if Smith was, in fact, the donor), I'd write

"Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, Mr. Smith (the donor of the cup), and Mr. Jones."

Not only that, but why would you write "the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith" if Mr Smith was the donor? Who the hell is Mr Smith? If he hadn't been mentioned earlier, no one would know who "Mr Smith" was, and if he had been previously mentioned, you'd use his name and then point out that he was the donor (as I did) as opposed to essentially saying "by the way, the donor's name happens to be Smith".

Bad example.

The right way to do it would be to put "the donor of the cup" after the conjunction. "The commodore, the fleet captain, Mr. Jones, and the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith." That's why a lot of these can be cleared up by rearranging the order of the list - if you want to use two nouns to identify one entity, it goes after the conjunction.

The classic "my parents, Ayn Rand, and God" should be three entities, but if you literally meant that Ayn Rand and God got it on and you were the result, you would say "Ayn Rand and God, my parents."

You should still use an Oxford comma, though.


My parents; Ayn Rand and God. My parents are Ayn Rand and God. My parents: Ayn Rand and God.
 
2013-01-23 11:58:16 AM

Vangor: At least, as far as I know I would; use of semicolons in list always shows examples of lists where every item contains a comma such as city, state; name, title; and month day, year, but I see no reason to shift punctuation.


\I see what you did there
 
2013-01-23 12:03:42 PM
I wanted three sandwiches: turkey, peanut butter, and jelly. They gave me two sandwiches because they didn't use an Oxford comma.
 
2013-01-23 12:05:11 PM
As someone with an English writing background, I have to wonder any more why we even bother with "rules" people don't even follow.

People say things the way they want, and they write the way they want.

Grammar is so post-modern.
 
2013-01-23 12:05:51 PM
Suck it, biatches.
 
2013-01-23 12:10:07 PM
At one point, those darn Oxfords were trying to stick an extra comma into:
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep," making it "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep."
In the original, "dark and deep" work together to create a mood. "Dark, and deep," turns it into a grocery list.
 
2013-01-23 12:14:09 PM

probesport: Who gives a fark about an Oxford comma? I've seen those English dramas too; They're cruel.


Fixed?
 
2013-01-23 12:15:48 PM
If you want a real fight, get some grammarians arguing over whether quotes should be inside or outside of punctuation.

"Really?"

"Really".

/bloodshed may ensue
 
2013-01-23 12:23:14 PM
1.bp.blogspot.com

Oxford Comma gram-mare-ians
clucking like chickens in the sand
Someone put it after the "and"
what do you think about that my friend?
 
2013-01-23 12:25:29 PM
FTA: "By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector."

Languagehat dug this gem out of a comment thread on the serial comma. It's from a TV listing in The Times. It supports the use of the Oxford comma, but only because it keeps Mandela from being a dildo collector. However, even the Oxford comma can't keep him from being an 800-year-old demigod. There's only so much a comma can do.


Think of how much better Invictus would have been...
 
2013-01-23 12:29:33 PM
 
2013-01-23 12:30:17 PM

cirby: If you want a real fight, get some grammarians arguing over whether quotes should be inside or outside of punctuation.

"Really?"

"Really".

/bloodshed may ensue


Like Jimmy Carter at Camp David, let Grammar Girl avert the bloodshed.
Link
 
2013-01-23 12:33:44 PM
3.bp.blogspot.com
 
2013-01-23 12:43:36 PM
So what's so difficult about "Use the damn comma if doing so makes your meaning clearer and omit the damn comma if doing so makes your meaning clearer. Otherwise it doesn't matter."
 
2013-01-23 12:47:32 PM
I always use the serial comma.

Firstly just because it seems more logically consistent. Why should all items in a series be separated by commas, except for the last two?

And secondly because you generally avoid all kinds of syntactical ambiguities that can occur of you leave it out.
 
2013-01-23 12:47:48 PM

ArcadianRefugee: I dunno about "the right way", but yeah, it would be the simplest (and probably best) way to avoid confusion.


Yeah, that's not the only way, but that's the way I was taught to avoid confusion in listmaking. A single entity with multiple nouns is separated either by the conjunction in the list or by semicolons.

The only reason that the AP Style Guide avoids the Oxford Comma was from the bad old days of typesetting, when you needed the extra character to make your columns fit. Same with the doublespace after a period.
 
2013-01-23 12:49:00 PM

orbister: So what's so difficult about "Use the damn comma if doing so makes your meaning clearer and omit the damn comma if doing so makes your meaning clearer. Otherwise it doesn't matter."


Because people love to lord their "knowledge" of the language over others.

I prefer the Oxford Comma in nearly every situation, but clarity is the primary goal.
 
2013-01-23 12:58:33 PM
People who don't believe in the Oxford comma should have their faces shoved in peas, and carrots.
 
2013-01-23 01:09:47 PM
Why no examples with the collective plural which goes all Jekyll and Hyde when it crosses any large body of water? The committee are still considering it.
 
2013-01-23 01:19:30 PM

cirby: If you want a real fight, get some grammarians arguing over whether quotes should be inside or outside of punctuation.

"Really?"

"Really".

/bloodshed may ensue


As journalism, I prefer the punctuation outside the quotations, unless the quotation also included the punctuation.

As a typesetter, I prefer the punctuation within the quotations, for appearance sake.
 
2013-01-23 01:38:06 PM
imagemacros.files.wordpress.com
 
2013-01-23 01:47:29 PM
Oxford comma: yes.
Non-quoted punctuation outside of quotation mark: yes.
Clarity above all: yes.
 
2013-01-23 01:49:11 PM

feanorn: Oxford comma: yes.
Non-quoted punctuation outside of quotation mark: yes.
Clarity above all: yes.


Agreed.
 
2013-01-23 01:51:18 PM

cirby: If you want a real fight, get some grammarians arguing over whether quotes should be inside or outside of punctuation.

"Really?"

"Really".

/bloodshed may ensue


Punctuation is outside quotation marks when the quote used does not end with the punctuation so as to not misrepresent the quote. Punctuation is inside quotation marks when the quote used does end with the punctuation to again not misrepresent the quote. Punctuation is inside quotation marks when the quote is the exclamation or question. Punctuation is outside quotation marks when the sentence which contains the quote is the exclamation or question. Punctuation is inside or outside when just a period and fictional because the integrity is irrelevant and there is no misinterpretation possible.
 
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