Oxford comma


a punctuation rule

TRANSLATION

Oxford comma = Komma vor „and“ oder „or“ in einer Aufzählung

STATISTICS

IN THE PRESS

“Philip Pullman calls for boycott of Brexit 50p coin over ‘missing’ OXFORD COMMA.”

Alison Flood  - The Guardian

Did you
know?

Oxford comma – also known as “serial comma” and “Harvard comma”
noun phrase

- A comma between the final items in a list, often preceding the word 'and' or 'or', such as the final comma in the list: newspapers, magazines, and books.

Collins English Dictionary


ORIGIN

The “Oxford comma” (the second comma in list A, B, and C) is used by Oxford University Press and was recommended by Henry W. Fowler in his authoritative book “Modern English Usage” (1926) in which he writes “there is no agreement at present on the punctuation, but the omission of the serial comma often leaves readers helpless against ambiguity”.


THE CONTROVERSIAL COIN

On the 21st of August 2019, the British prime minister Boris Johnson and the German chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin to discuss ‘the backstop’ that was becoming the trickiest issue of the Brexit debate.

Five months later, Britain officially left the EU, a historic break that was marked by the issue of the 50p Brexit commemorative coin. Inscribed on the back of the coin was the sentence:

“Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”.

Philip Pullman was not alone when he commented on social media: "The Brexit 50p coin is missing an Oxford comma, and should be boycotted by all literate people!”


THE PERPLEXING PANDA

How perplexing to imagine a panda bear that “eats, shoots, and leaves”... with the three verbs suggesting eating, firing a gun, and departing. Most perplexing!

Just omit the Oxford comma and suddenly all becomes clear: “shoots and leaves” become objects of the verb “eats” (shoots = Sprösslinge).

Check out the marvellous bestseller “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves” where author Lynn Truss amusingly explains the mysteries of English punctuation.


PRACTICE OWAD in an English conversation, say something like:

“However you choose to name them, the “serial comma”, “Oxford comma”, and “Harvard comma” cause intense debate amongst journalists, authors, and grammarians.”


HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

https://donorbox.org/please-become-a-friend-of-owad-3

Paul Smith

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