The Oxford Comma

This week I came across a little comma in the middle of a linguistic polemic.  It is amazing how many niche areas the English language can take you into. I thought I’d share this one as I found it interesting. Hope you do to.

The serial comma, also known as the Oxford Comma is the comma used before a coordinating conjunction which preceeds the last word of an enumeration (list, e.g: France, Spain and, Italy).

This punctuation rule, specific of the English language, is not used and accepted by all the English-speaking world. While it has become very common in the American and Canadian English and has been recognized by the Oxford University Press, it is still critized by purists.

In fact the main function of the oxford comma is a question of stylistics. It would improve the rhythm of the sentence and would resolve any possible ambiguity in the understanding of the sentance. However from a grammar point of view the coordinating conjunctions like “and” or “or”are precisely used to indicate the logical separation between words, and to mark the rhythm in the sentence. Thus the Serial Comma would be considered as redundant and useless. Moreover the journalist world is absolutly against making the comma redundant as they are constantly looking for an economy of space.

In short, it is interesting to see, that, a small comma that we might not have noticed, can emphazise the difficulty of the evolutions of a language as wide spread as English .

What do you think?

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