Dear Grammarians, all English teachers, users of AP style, college students everywhere, and Vampire Weekend,
Welcome to college, where you’ll encounter a multitude of people who fail to understand the difference between to/too/two, there/their/they’re, your/you’re, and the importance of the Oxford comma. Being forced to edit my peers’ papers has made me realize how many people fail to understand simple grammar and how privileged I am to have gone to a Catholic school followed by another private academy where grammar was drilled into my head each and every day.
Now you may not know what the Oxford comma is, as it also goes by the name “serial comma” and “Harvard comma.” Many people fail to see why the Oxford comma is so essential, especially journalists, as writers and journalists are often forced to conform to AP style and therefore must omit one of the most essential forms of punctuation behind the period. I’m convinced that the reason AP style omits the Oxford comma is solely for the purpose of conciseness rather than clarity. Writing without the Oxford comma simply makes a writer seem uneducated and careless, even if AP style requires you to neglect it.
In case you don’t know or in case you’ve forgotten, the Oxford comma is the second to last mark of punctuation in a list of three or more items and before the written conjunction, such as “broccoli, peas, and carrots” rather than “broccoli, peas and carrots.” In complete honesty, omitting the Oxford comma for the sake of typing an example shoots chills down my back. Neglecting the Oxford comma simply changes the meaning of a sentence altogether. For example:
Failing to include the Oxford comma implies that JFK and Stalin were strippers. Now, I’m not a history buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m pretty sure that the thirty-fifth President of the United States and the leader of the Soviet Union were NOT strippers. That example alone should convince you that the Oxford comma is nothing short of essential to proper writing, but just in case you’re not fully convinced yet, let’s look at another example:
Once again, I’m not a history buff; however, I know FOR A FACT that the first and the sixteenth Presidents of the United States were not rhinoceri. How would they have run the country? Rhinoceri don’t even have opposable thumbs.
At the end of the day, I’m not going to change AP style; in fact, I am incapable of changing AP style, no matter how badly I desire to. The rest of what I write will conform to leaving out the Oxford comma; however, in my heart and in whatever I write for academic papers will include the Oxford comma. All of my English teachers taught me the proper use of the penultimate comma and I choose to honor my education and continue to not just include the Oxford comma but embrace it. So to all English teachers, users of AP style, college students everywhere, grammarians, and Vampire Weekend, I care about the Oxford Comma.
College student, biology major, and strong proponent of the Oxford comma