20 February 2013

Oxford comma and more

I highly recommend Angus Croll's excellent posting entitled The Oxford Comma and the Internet here.
I agree with Angus. When it's needed it's important and when it's not, it's not. To my mind there is no point being dogmatically for or against. As Angus clearly demonstrates there are contexts where it clarified and others where it doesn't.

Update, 14 May 2013:
Americans apparently call it the 'serial comma'.
Excellent article entitled 10 Function of the Comma by Mark Nichol here.

Another great debate among punctuation freaks is where to put quotation marks in relation to punctuation marks like full stops (periods), commas and semi-colons. Most Americans always put the closing quotation mark after the other punctuation mark while many writers raised in the Commonwealth do the opposite.

Again, I favour of pragmatism over dogmatism. On each occasion I place the marks in what I consider is the more logical and/or more typographically aesthetic position... with apologies to those who favour systematic solutions over logic.

None of this is of much real importance, but it's quite amazing how pleasant it feels to state one's case in the form of a posting accessible to any and all.


  1. Yes, Angus's post is good fun. I didn't know it was called the Oxford comma. Our Canadian translator's handbook, "The Canadian Style", says this:
    "Opinions vary on whether and when a comma should be inserted before the final 'and' or 'or' in a sequence. In keeping with the general trend towards less punctuation, the final comma is best omitted where clarity permits."

    I think the "trend towards less punctuation" is a factor. Look at a 19th-century English text: much heavier punctuation.

  2. The Canadian translator's handbook, "The Canadian Style", certainly states the guidance accurately and elegantly. It might not please States-siders who right rigid rules rather than reasoned guidance, but it certainly suits me. Many thanks for your comment.


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