The AP Stylebook’s Facebook page is totally underrated when it comes to organizations that do a great job on social media. Their strategy is simple but effective – each day they put out one relevant style guide tip.
They don’t need fancy gifs or memes to get people to respond to their posts. Then again, that might be because every single comment section ends up circling back to one thing: the Oxford comma.
For those of you who are coming in fresh to this debate, the AP Stylebook says that the Oxford comma (or the comma which comes before “and” or “or” when items are listed in a series) should be used when a sentence could be misinterpreted without it. Oxford comma advocates believe it should be used all the time and can’t stop complaining that the AP Stylebook is trying to ban it (it’s not).
I know my opinion is going to be unpopular because so many people who pride themselves on being “literary cool” (which is usually just cool, except when it comes to this) love to loooove the Oxford comma. And then, there are others who want to ride on the coattails of the “literary cool” folk and say that they’re Oxford comma advocates, when they really don’t know what in the hell they’re talking about.
Before I get started, I’m not a proponent for or against the Oxford comma. If it’s required for clarity, use it, but if not, don’t use it. I will say this, though: if you need that comma for clarity, your sentence is likely too muddled anyway and should be reworded. Still, I could see how some types of writing, like legalese, would need to be worded in a particularly muddled way. 😉
What I am an advocate for is stopping pretentious people from acting like it’s God’s gift to the grammar world and begging for the AP Stylebook to bring it back. No. Plz. Stahp.
In other words, I’m trying to take down these people:
(Actually, I really don’t trust people who are verbal proponents of the Oxford comma.)
(The chart speaks for itself.)
I’m not sure exactly what it is about that pesky, generally unnecessary little punctuation mark that has people so obsessed, but I think it has something to with this stupid meme (literary folk, bear with me as I explain):
Ladies and gents, that is NOT an Oxford comma. Yes, the comma in that sentence provides clarity, but it’s not a good argument for the Oxford comma – because it’s not an Oxford comma. It’s fake news, y’all.
Now you might say, “Yeah, Rachel, I’m not one of those grammar posers – I know that wasn’t an Oxford comma.” Look, I know you know. Which brings me to my second point, another meme that’s made it’s way around Facebook:
Yes, this time the writer is using an Oxford comma. But do you really think someone is going to be confused by that sentence? NO. I promise you they won’t be. You put that comma in there, and I’ll accuse you of insulting my intelligence.
Here’s another lame example that I’ve seen:
Friends, I’m not going to assume that your parents are named Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty just because you omitted the Oxford comma. I know you’re not trying to pull one over on me — you’re just following the guidance of the AP Stylebook and basic logic that whoever you’re talking to isn’t an idiot.
In the words of Vampire Weekend, “Who gives a f*ck about an Oxford comma?” Not me.