Tuesday, 13 July 2010
The Oxford Comma
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
The Inky Fool is always floating, gloating, thinking, stinking and winking.
The English do not usually insert the comma before and. However, a chap called F.H. Collins insisted that you should, and it therefore became the house style of the Oxford University Press. So it's called an Oxford Comma*. There are myriad arguments for and against the Oxford comma. People cite authority, precedent, Fowler, ambiguity, concision(,) and almost everything else. These are not my concern.
I would merely like to point out that lists with an Oxford comma seem to build to a climax. The comma sets off the final noun and gives it emphasis.
You are my PA, my friend, my lover, and my god.
The commaless list, on the other hand seems more reasonable and less exciting.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry.
I would choose my punctuation based not on some rule, but on the way in which I would like you, mysterious reader, to read the sentence.
Now watch this:
*Or, sometimes, a serial comma.
P.S. There's an immemorial superstition that if you sleep with a book under your pillow the information therein will somehow seep into your brain. I have no idea whether this can be scientifically proved, but I used to live above the Oxford University Press Bookshop.