From The Writers’ Dig:
Let’s start with defining the Oxford comma (also known as a serial comma—or even a Harvard comma apparently): It’s the comma that follows the penultimate item in a list of three or more things. And it’s apparently a thing that many writers and grammarians love to debate, though I’m not sure why.
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The Oxford Comma Debate
As far as I can tell, the main argument against using the Oxford comma is that it’s somehow easier to not insert a comma at the end of a list of three or more items. Let’s look at this example: We invited my parents, Thomas and Nancy.
This makes great sense if I invited two people named Thomas and Nancy, who both happen to be my parents. Plus, I included their names for easy reference. But if I actually invited four people, then this could be confusing, because I should’ve done one of the following:
Example #1 (with serial comma): We invited my parents, Thomas, and Nancy.
Example #2 (sans serial comma): We invited Thomas, Nancy and my parents.
While both of those examples are now correct and make sense, the door opened by not consistently using the Oxford comma seems to tempt a lot of possible problems for the sake of omitting a comma. I love streamlined language as much as the next person, but this seems like excessive laziness to me. Is it really so hard to insert a serial comma at the end of both lists?
What do you think?
Here are a few more examples:
Oxford comma: He shared the news, his breakfast, and coffee with his guests.
No Oxford comma: He shared the news, his breakfast and coffee with his guests.
Oxford comma: She reads young adult, science fiction, and nonfiction.
No Oxford comma: She reads young adult, science fiction and nonfiction.
Link to the rest at The Writers’ Dig