Okay, this is something I have had on my chest for a while, and I really need to get it out. The Oxford comma is the correct way to use commas in a series. There, I said it. I know the debate is not a new one, but it is something that I have dealt with a lot recently. Strangely enough, out of all the debates I could be having with my friends lately, it seems to have come down to this one. Of course, a lot of people do not even know what the Oxford comma is or how it should be used.
The Oxford comma, or serial comma if you prefer, refers to the use of a comma at the end of a series of things. For example, take this sentence: "I love my parents, Bob Marley, and Prince." In this sentence, the Oxford comma comes in between "Bob Marley" and the "and." This clarifies to people that the writer of this sentence loves three separate things. However, if one removes the Oxford comma, it becomes a little more confusing. "I love my parents, Bob Marley and Prince." This sentence can lead people to believe that the writer's parents are none other than "Bob Marley" and "Prince."
Why is this important? Well, the lack of confusion is the main reason. An Oxford comma is clear, simple, and it states exactly who or what is in the list. It is also incredibly hard to mix up, grammatically correct, and it is the most basic of lessons on commas taught to young kids. The simplicity is hard to ignore as well. Simply educating people that there must be one last comma before "and" in a list tells everyone that is how this little piece of grammar works. It allows people to have a basic understanding and a general rule to follow when it comes to grammar, and let's be honest, most people's grammatical capabilities are already weak.
The main argument against the Oxford comma is that it is not necessary for every list, and to the argument's credit, it is true. It is not necessary for every series, but should that really matter? If it works for either scenario, then why would it be excluded part of the time? I would say it is more confusing to say that the rule should only be followed occasionally. A Reddit user found possibly the best example of why the Oxford comma should be used all of the time.
My final nail in this coffin, (or maybe the last kick of a long dead horse at this point) is that a court case ruled in favor of the Oxford comma. I won't get into the specifics here because there can be a lot of legal babble, but essentially the case was between the drivers of the Oakhurst Dairy and the company itself. The company argued that they did not have to pay overtime for two separate categories of conditions. However, they neglected to use an Oxford comma to separate the last two categories, which implied they were all in the same category. As a result, the court ruled that the conditions were not clear-cut, and it is estimated to have cost the company ten million dollars.
I know that at the end of the day, this debate will go on almost forever, but I really think that the answer is simple enough. The Oxford comma is one that should be used in any series. Whether it is a grocery list, group of people, or short thoughts, it should be used. It is more useful than confusing, and it is an extremely basic form of grammar. With debates like these, it is no wonder why people are so confused on grammar.