The Courts Have Spoken: Use the Oxford comma!

rogersgeorge on September 4th, 2017

News about this item appeared in March of 2017. It’s the outcome of a court case between a dairy in Maine and the company’s drivers, and it all hinged on the Oxford, or serial, comma.

I’m pretty sure, if you are the type to read this blog even occasionally, that you know what an Oxford comma is: When you have a list of things with an “and” between the last two items in the list, the comma before the “and” is called the Oxford comma. (This applies to lists with “or” too.)

Here’s a link to the appellate court’s decision.

http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fcases.justia.com%2Ffederal%2Fappellate-courts%2Fca1%2F16-1901%2F16-1901-2017-03-13.pdf%3Fts%3D1489437006&h=ATMpOkf4k9p_UmvuEWC6rxctfV2E8IAVkwUpZkZjfBtl21F_70u0wVZRZ66x-Rgk-4v91v_AV8XAtXA9tF-srYPgo_WiS8FPNnqaQaCBjAErFP9HcTVxSM2aZNDstFb96LKRy1FWZ89xJjrAjTAhzDJoDQ

I don’t really recommend you bother to read it, but the gist is that the drivers were entitled to extra goodies because the last two items in a list were combined, as implied by the lack of a comma before the “and.” So the “missing” comma, even though it’s considered grammatical to leave it out, cost the company money.

Here’s the rule as I phrase it:

Without the Oxford comma, sometimes you can be misunderstood. With it, you are never misunderstood.

Since I advocate that expository should be clear, I say “Always use the Oxford comma!”

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