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In Praise of the Oxford Comma

Commas do indeed save lives.

I am no grammarian (as my editors will attest). I didn't major in English. But I have always, and continue to have, strong feelings about the existential importance of the Oxford (serial) comma's use in the English language. In that spirit, enjoy ...


From O'Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, 851 F.3d 69, 75 n.5 (1st Cir. 2017):


Before leaving our discussion of serial commas, we would be remiss not to note the clarifying virtues of serial commas that other jurisdictions recognize. In fact, guidance on legislative drafting in most other states and in the Congress appears to differ from Maine's when it comes to serial commas. Some state legislative drafting manuals expressly warn that the absence of serial commas can create ambiguity concerning the last item in a list. One analysis notes that only seven states—including Maine—either do not require or expressly prohibit the use of the serial comma. See Amy Langenfeld, Capitol Drafting: Legislative Drafting Manuals in the Law School Classroom, 22 Perspectives: Teaching Legal Res. & Writing 141, 143-144 (2014); see also Grace E. Hart, Note, State Legislative Drafting Manuals and Statutory Interpretation, 126 Yale L.J. 438 (2016). Also, drafting conventions of both chambers of the federal Congress warn against omitting the serial comma for the same reason. See U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Legislative Counsel, House Legislative Counsel's Manual on Drafting Style, No. HLC 104-1, § 351 at 58 (1995) (requiring a serial comma to "prevent[ ] any misreading that the last item is part of the preceding one"); U.S. Senate Office of the Legislative Counsel, Legislative Drafting Manual § 321(c) at 79 (1997) (same language as House Manual).


From Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern English Usage, p. 982 (5th ed. 2022): " … including [the Oxford comma] never creates an ambiguity, whereas omitting it fairly often does."


And, last of all:



I love cooking my pets and my family


Don't be a serial killer


Use serial commas and love cooking, your pets, and your family






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