Jilly: The Case for the Oxford Comma

Do you care about the Oxford comma?

A few days ago my husband and I found ourselves in a discussion about punctuation with the lawyer who prepared our wills. She explained the need for clarity in legal drafting, and highlighted the danger that a misplaced punctuation mark could completely change the effect of a clause. I don’t know what made me think of it, but in a moment of word-geekery I checked the draft will in front of me and noticed that the list of our potential executors (Tom, Dick, Harry and Jane) was written without a comma after the penultimate name.

I asked, and was told that this is the approved punctuation for a list of items or names: apparently the legal manual of style in England does not favor the Oxford comma. The discovery surprised me. If the lack of a serial comma can make nonsense of a simple sentence like “Susan organized a party and invited her parents, the Queen of England and Richard Branson,” (clearly Her Majesty and Sir Richard are not Susan’s parents), then surely, I thought, it would have the potential to cause confusion in some contracts.

I was curious, so when I got home, I spent some quality time on the interwebs and was tickled to find that the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently issued a ruling that hinged on this very point, Continue reading

Michaeline: Does the Oxford Comma Matter?

St. George, a free black, fencing with D'Eon, an 18th century transgender woman, at Carlton House in front of Prinney.

I pulled this from Wikimedia Commons for the fencing, but the story behind this pic is just too amazing to forgo for a clever caption. Read about it here: https://shrineodreams.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/duel-of-the-outsiders/

Why do people get so worked up over the Oxford comma?

I’ve had time to follow Jennifer Crusie’s blog explosion over the past week or so. She tackled diversity, and then she posted about U.S. Politics. There was an explosion of comments, but most of them were civil, rational discussion about important issues, so perhaps “explosion” is too bloody of a word to use.

But then the discussion of U.S. Politics spun off into a discussion of punctuation . . . and then the gloves came off! I exaggerate; the conversation was still polite, but one could sense something edgier coming into play; lines were drawn in the sand and I thought I could see some glittering teeth peeking around commas and clauses. Maybe I was projecting. Continue reading