Influence people

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mind Your Oxford Commas


Part 2 of a 3-part series on the usage rules for commas
A misused comma can make a sharp marketer look dull.
Here's Rule Two:
When you write a sentence that includes a list of three or more items, you may or may not put a comma before the last item in the list.
The decision depends on style, not grammar.
If you follow the Oxford Guide to Style, you'd write:
Join now and receive an official association decal, member's hat, and free admission to FACE.
But if you follow the Associated Press Stylebook, you'd write:
Join now and receive an official association decal, member's hat and free admission to FACE.
Fans of the "Oxford comma" argue it eliminates ambiguity. Consider this example:
Our keynoters include FACE's outgoing and incoming chairmen, Ted Danson and Al Gore.
It's unclear whether two or four keynote speakers will appear. An Oxford Comma would eliminate that ambiguity:
Our keynoters include FACE's outgoing and incoming chairmen, Ted Danson, and Al Gore.
Of course, you could remove the ambiguity by reordering the items in the list:
Our keynoters include Ted Danson, Al Gore and FACE's outgoing and incoming chairmen.
But an Oxford Comma would improve the sentence's readability. That's why even the Associated Press Stylebook would urge you to include one:
Our keynoters include Ted Danson, Al Gore, and FACE's outgoing and incoming chairmen.

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