Arguments In Favor Of The Oxford Comma

The Stranger has one.

And here’s another:

Oxford Comma

Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. beth says:

    I apologize – I guess the handshake was a big deal.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    A handshake instead of a kiss?

  3. rodney dill says:

    I got a good laugh from The Stranger’s one.

  4. legion says:

    Isn’t Sky News _in_ England? Where Oxford is? Shouldn’t they be able to figure this out themselves?

  5. CSK says:

    I knew my dedication to the serial comma was not misplaced.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    I punctuate however I need to punctuate in order to make my meaning clear. As it happens I’m going over the copy-edits of a manuscript right now and explaining in the notes that no, I will not use semicolons because readers don’t know what the hell they mean.

    In addition to seeking clarity I punctuate to either accelerate or slow the reader. Sort of like using reins and spurs on a horse, forcing them to walk, trot or gallop.

    I simply ignore the manuals of style. Don’t care.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    A handshake and gay marriage – wait a minute, that’s not what I heard.

  8. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    He eats, shoots and leaves.

  9. Stonetools says:

    My faith in Strunk and White has once more been confirmed , although I have departed from the strait path in the case of “hopefully”.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds: FWIW, I had to re-read your opening sentence twice before I understood it: “I punctuate however I need to punctuate in order to make my meaning clear.” Don’t know if additional punctuating could have resolved the two different meanings of “however” though…

  11. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Keep your Strunk and White.

    There is only one true expert on style and punctuation…

    Victor Borge

  12. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Of course… em PHA sis is important as well.

    The statement, “I didn’t say you were stupid” has six different meanings, depending on which word is emphasized.

    Try it.

    (So Obama and Castro are getting gay married… I see what you did there)

  13. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: Shouldn’t you use semicolons so that your readership–generally children between the ages of 9 and 14 as I understand the genre–will become used to seeing them and learn how they work as tools of communication?

    Sort of on the order of,,, you know… building their reading skills so that they are not stuck at the 6th-grade level all their lives?

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Just ‘nutha’ ig’rant cracker:

    What am I, an educator? No, dude, my job is to entertain. Now, as it happens, that inevitably involves some teaching, but I am not primarily in the business of teaching grammar or punctuation.

  15. Franklin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I will not use semicolons because readers don’t know what the hell they mean.

    Just for my own clarification, you are talking about young readers, correct? Not readers in general.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Actually, I was sitting around with some big name kidlit writers – including in their number some English teachers – and we were laughing about copy editors and their love for semi-colons. None of us used semi-colons. None of us saw the point or advantage. Commas, periods, colons and m-dashes get the job done.

  17. Dave D says:
  18. Grewgills says:

    It is sometimes useful to have something between a comma and a period.

  19. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I think his point was that you shouldn’t need to dumb down punctuation to younger readers. I am not familiar with your work, but from what I understand you don’t dumb down your vocabulary or content for young readers. You rightly see that young readers are capable of more than many give them credit for. If your choice not to use semicolons was purely stylistic or based simply on you not seeing much use for them, I could understand that. It is pretty easy to write in such a way that avoids both them and bad grammar; simply avoid sentences that use them by putting a period instead. Kids are smart enough to figure out that a semicolon means some kind of pause; give them a little more credit.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    At this point they’re essentially archaic. When you have a bunch of bestselling authors who can’t think of why you should use them. . .

    As for the other things, not only do I not dumb things down for teens, part of the reason I don’t write for adults is I would have to dumb things down for them. Kids have imaginations, adults less so.

  21. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    For the type of writing you do I wouldn’t think they would often be useful. The only time I commonly use them is when I have a sentence with nested lists. blah blah blah xxx, xxx, xxx; yyy, yyy, yyy; zzz, zzz. I rarely use them to tie together to closely associated independent clauses.
    I don’t know that you have to dumb things down for either. Adults can lose creativity, but great writing pulls it right back out in us. I am reading ‘The City and the City’ now by Mieville and he is fantastic at evocative world building without spoon feeding.