To Comma or Not to Comma?

To Comma or Not to Comma?

It’s a common question in the PR world: do I use the extra comma in a series, a.k.a. the Oxford comma, or not? The battle between pro- and anti-Oxford comma writers is a fierce one. According to a survey taken by statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight, 57 percent of Americans prefer the Oxford comma, compared to 43 percent who prefer no Oxford comma. AP Style does not recognize the Oxford comma, while the Chicago Manual of Style stands by it.

Yet the debate rages on.

Consider a popular example:

No Oxford comma – I love my parents, JK Rowling and Moby Dick.

Versus

With Oxford comma – I love my parents, JK Rowling, and Moby Dick.

The former may be misconstrued to read that you love your parents, who are famous author JK Rowling and a fictional whale. The latter clarifies that you love your parents as well as the Harry Potter author and Herman Melville creation.

Why does it matter, you ask? It’s clear that JK Rowling and Moby Dick cannot and do not have offspring. But sometimes, it can make all the difference.

According to a recent court ruling, proper punctuation matters a great deal. In a lawsuit between a Maine company and truck drivers suing for overtime pay, a state law lacking an Oxford comma led the court to rule in favor of the drivers.

You win this round, Oxford comma supporters.

Need help figuring out where you stand in this debate? Contact our expert writers to help clarify your messaging. 

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Posted By Bernadette Miller

Bernadette is a go-to resource for [mostly] useless trivia who can turn any situation into a reference from “30 Rock.” When not in the kitchen cooking or baking, she’s probably singing off-key on a run or catching up on issues of The New Yorker on her Nook.