Comma Chameleon

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Comma Chameleon

Oxford Comma Dropped By University of Oxford

Quote:
A University of Oxford Writing and Style Guide has decidedthat writers should, “as a general rule,” avoid using the Oxford comma. Will you miss the good old fashioned serial comma?

Here’s an explanation from the style guide: “As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used – especially where one of the items in the list is already joined by ‘and’ [for example]:  They had a choice between croissants, bacon and eggs, and muesli.”

*sniff*

 

 

Issues Pages: 
oldgoat

ygtbk

On the (perhaps too-simple) theory that commas correspond to slight pauses in speech when reading aloud, I'm going to continue using the Oxford comma. Maybe we can call it "comma classic"?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I was thinking: what are the implications of this move for the twins, Ronnie and Chad. Also, what are the implications for the twins, Ronnie, and Chad?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Move along; nothing to see here, folks. As the "Update" to the link in the OP says,

Quote:
UPDATE: Reader Michael Williams adds this clarification: “That’s the University of Oxford PR department style guide. Oxford University Press is a commercially and editorially autonomous organization.”

This is NOT a style guide for students, or for authors submitting books or papers for publication. It's for people writing pamphlets, brochures, and ad copy.

 

Caissa

Have they no shame, class, and tradition.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

In Saturday's Globe, Warren Clements wrote:
Imagine the kerfuffle, then, when Galleycat, a division of the U.S. website mediabistro.com, relayed a tweet last week implying that the Oxford University Press would discard the Oxford comma as of June 30. Bell, book and candle would prevail. Fans of the comma rent their garments and muttered about heresy.

It turned out to have been a misunderstanding. It was Oxford University’s public affairs department, and not the OUP, that had decided to stop using the Oxford comma. The OUP said it had no intention of disowning the comma. Peace was restored.

Many will wonder what the fuss was about. The answer concerns the clarity of a sentence. As Lynne Truss proved with her massive bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which was at heart about the accurate placement of commas and apostrophes, a lot of people care about such things. I’m one of them. To judge by the mail, many of this column’s readers are, too.

[url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/warren-clements/the-case-for-an...

ETA: vote in the Globe poll: the Oxford comma has a whopping 65% support among readers.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Left Turn Left Turn's picture

The Oxford comma is necessary to convey proper meaning. Take the following two examples:

a) Tom, Dick, and Harry went to the fair.

b) Tom, Dick and Harry went to the fair.

Example b actually shifts the verb tense from the third person to the second person. In example a, each of Tom, Dick, and Harry went to the fair. In example b, the writer is informing Tom that Dick and Harry went to the fair, the implication being that Tom did not go to the fair. The reader should not be forced to ascertain from other sentences that may be in the same paragraph that the sentence is supposed to be in the third person, when it was written in the second person.

Unionist

There is no fucking way I will stop using the so-called serial comma.

I hope that's clear,

What is life without a surfeit of commas?

You can bend me shape me any way you want me long as you love me it's all right bend me shape me anyway you want me you got the power to turn on the light.

I hope that's, clear.

DaveW

from the author's foreword to a book:

I would like to thank my parents, Mother Teresa and the Pope ... Surprised

Unionist

From my childhood memories:

"Let's eat children!"

Unionist

Punctuate (never forgetting that babble is a feminist board):

A woman without her man is nothing.

 

DaveW

or

Willie Nelson opened the country festival with a tribute to his 2 ex-wives, Kris Kristoffersen and Merle Haggard

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Left Turn wrote:
The Oxford comma is necessary to convey proper meaning. Take the following two examples:

a) Tom, Dick, and Harry went to the fair.

b) Tom, Dick and Harry went to the fair.

Ridiculous. This isn't the fifties, when commas were plentiful and abundant. In these trying times, we must be miserly with our commas, and as such, language has progressed to the point where superfluous ticks are no longer necessary. In the second example above, the comma can easily be replaced with a colon (which English-speaking nations have in surplus since the end of the cold war) or an em-dash:

Quote:
Tom: Dick and Harry went to the fair.

Tom—Dick and Harry went to the fair.

Moreover: in this age of the internet—we can dispense with both of these punctuation marks by employing capital letters and spaces more creatively:

Quote:
TOM dickandharry went to the fair

Of course: we don't need commascolonsorcapitals if we just take our grammar cues from Twitter—asweallshould.

Quote:
@TOM dickandharry #went2fair

Which, finally, passes the test for concision, clarity and liveliness.

 

Unionist

Will this be on the exam?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

The exam started three threads ago.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

@Catchfire -- What works on Twitter, Facebook, and forums such as babble, doesn't work very well in formal prose; which there needs to be space for in our 21st century culture. Hint: Twitterspeak and university level essays don't go together.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Apparently, neither does satire Wink

Unionist

You heard of the fellow who lapsed into a comma after a botched colonoscopy?

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Fanfare for the Comma Man

Quote:
Is it safe to talk about punctuation again? Eight years ago, Lynne Truss’s best-selling “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” took, in the words of her subtitle, a “Zero Tolerance Approach” to the subject. Although Truss’s focus on errors drew the ire, if not the fire, of grammarians, linguists and other “descriptivists,” her book was, for the most part, harmless and legitimate. Still, it overlooked a lot. Maybe more than any other element of writing, punctuation combines rules with issues of sound, preference and personal style. And as Truss didn’t adequately acknowledge, even the rules change over time.

The two big players in the field are the period and the comma. I’ll start with the latter because the protocol for comma use is so complicated and contingent. As I said, what’s right and wrong changes historically, and the comma shows this clearly. In the 19th century and earlier (when rules were generally more lax than they are today), comma use was pretty much a crapshoot. That is, writers rolled one in when they felt like it, which was usually when a natural pause seemed to occur. So in the first line of “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), Jane Austen wrote:

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

By about a century later, comma rules had been codified such that both commas in the sentence (after “acknowledged” and “fortune”) would be dispensed with.

Unionist

Sounds to me like reasonable accommadation.