The Oxford Comma Debate
Guest Post from Jocelyn Blore
Proper use of punctuation used to be the territory of editors and lonely grammar enthusiasts. One punctuation mark, however, has been catapulted into the popular consciousness with articles by The Economist, NPR, Mental Floss, and others, not to mention a hit song by Vampire Weekend. I’m speaking of course about the Oxford comma.
Quick test: In a hypothetical Oscar acceptance speech to the Academy, which would be correct?
A: “I’d like to thank my parents, Bill Hudson and Goldie Hawn.”
B: “I’d like to thank my parents, Bill Hudson, and Goldie Hawn.”
The answer is: It depends. If you’re Kate Hudson and your parents really are Bill Hudson and Goldie Hawn, ‘A’ would be appropriate; if, however, you’re thanking four people (your parents in addition to the actors), ‘B’ would be the correct response.
Although the debate rages on, I am on Team Oxford Comma — confident in my belief that the Oxford comma is essential in clarifying meaning. Detractors, on the other hand, attest that the Oxford comma is unnecessary and redundant.
The following infographic examines both camps, as well as where mainstream publications are drawing lines. Which side are you on?
March Forth to Celebrate National Grammar Day
National Grammar Day is upon us! Last week, the Grammarly team asked our Facebook fans to share original photos that capture some of the exceptional, awkward, and hilarious writing errors that they encounter every day. As a result, we received nearly 200 photo submissions that visually represent some difficult facts that have become representative of the state of English writing skills today.
In the United States alone, low literacy (the ability to read and write) costs the economy $225 billion a year in lost productivity; and, writers who are not yet in the workforce are already foreshadowing negative outcomes. For example, student writing scores on the SAT have declined five points since 2011 and consistently represent the lowest student outcomes of any section of the test. As is evidenced by the photos we received of misspelled street signs, dinner menus, elementary school worksheets, and more, many English writers simply do not learn proper spelling and grammar skills.
Writing is one way in which people are measured, and a properly written sentence or paragraph can make the difference in receiving a passing or failing grade, job offer, promotion, or pay raise. National Grammar Day is a fun opportunity to celebrate grammar with photos, haikus, “grammar” crackers, and “grammartinis,” but let’s not lose sight of the overall goal of the day: To reflect on the importance of proper grammar.
Happy National Grammar Day!
Grammarly’s National Grammar Day Photo Contest ran from February 22 to March 1 on the Grammarly Facebook Page. The winner of the contest and recipient of a $100 Amazon Gift Card as well as bragging rights on National Grammar Day is Julia Catton. Julia sent us this gem:
I guess they really do ship anything, anywhere.
Here are some more entertaining photos submitted for the contest:
Shared by Michele Lemmon
Shared by Tim Thompson
Shared by Crystal Thomas
Shared by Anne Marsh
Shared by Nancy Morin
Shared by Lee-Anne Lawrance
Shared by JoAnna Belligan Lewis
Shared by Amy Carroll
Shared by Johanna Brown
Shared by Emily Rohrer
A semicolon is a punctuation mark used to connect two thoughts or ideas which are somehow similar. Generally, each thought or idea could be used as its own sentence, but the flow of the work may be interrupted by the short, choppy sentences.
Semicolons are a little archaic and are not necessary in modern writing. Even in formal writing, they may be replaced by a comma or a period. However, if they are used properly, semicolons can add a pleasing continuity to your work.
When reading out loud, we pause for semicolons much the same way we pause for a comma.
Punctuation jokes! Can you think of any others?
Download Grammarly Lite to write without mistakes on Tumblr, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and more. It’s FREE. http://bit.ly/XSjvbA
The Oxford (Serial) Comma
Serial Comma (Within List Of Similar Elements)
When creating a list or series of multiple things which are similar, commas should be used to separate each item in the list.
N.B. American English requires the use of a comma before the last and in a list; British English does not. Be sure to follow local protocol, particularly in formal writing.
Teenagers are often anxious to grow up, get a job, and move out of their parents’ house.
If you look carefully, there are three things teenagers want to do: 1) grow up, 2) get a job, and 3) move out of their parents’ house. These are similar things (they’re all things teenagers are anxious to do), so we need both commas.
I still have to buy a gift, pack the suitcases, and arrange for someone to water the plants while we’re at the wedding.
Mary needs bread, milk, and butter at the grocery store.
To use or not to use? The Oxford comma debate is a pretty heated one. Do you use Oxford (serial) commas?
Reblog if you understand how NOT to use an apostrophe.
Its = possessive form of “it”
It’s = contraction of “it is”
How Commas Are (Were) Made
“In the 3rd century BC, Aristophanes of Byzantium invented a system of single dots (distinctiones) that separated verses (colometry), and indicated the amount of breath needed to complete each fragment of text, when reading aloud. (1) The different lengths were signified by a dot at the bottom, middle, or top of the line. For a short passage (akomma), a media distinctio dot was placed mid-level ( · ). This is the origin of the concept of a comma, although the name came to be used for the mark itself, instead of the clause it separated.
The mark used today is descended from a diagonal slash, or virgula suspensiva ( / ), used from the 13th to 17th centuries to represent a pause, and was first used by Aldus Manutius.” (2) (3)
Found at Wikipedia.
What a difference a comma (or two) can make!