Oxford commas are the galoshes of grammar: now and again important to keep away from a multitude, but in no way fashionable. Mandating the Oxford comma is inimical to proper writing. Just as we omit unnecessary phrases, so too must we excise extra punctuation.
Consider a current example circulating online, wherein a younger lady argues for the Oxford comma by means of breaking down the word, “I thanked my parents, Batman, and Superman.” She factors out that putting off the comma after “Batman” should alternate the meaning to suggest that Batman and Superman are the writer’s parents, as opposed to extra people being thanked. Rather than proving the need for requiring the Oxford comma, however, this case illuminates its risks.
Although the ridiculous nature of the instance makes it greater shiny, it also well-knownshows that context frequently moots the want for the Oxford comma. In this situation, context would probably display the word changed into no longer intended to claim superhero lineage.
Furthermore, the example suggests how the usage of the Oxford comma encourages lazy writing. Relying on the Oxford comma for listing-making may be clarifying, however, it often interferes with precise composition. Assuming the instance word is funny, the humor is based on the incongruity between thanking one’s parents and thanking a pair of fictitious superheroes. As presently constructed, however, the wording weakens this, regardless of whether or not the Oxford comma is covered.
Simply rearranging the list to “I thanked Batman, Superman and my dad and mom” gets rid of the want to apply the Oxford comma. It additionally locations the incongruity on the quit of the word, rather than the center, thereby giving it extra effect.
If the author nevertheless needed to hold filial piety on the fore, there’s a ramification of approaches to try this that highlights the evaluation with the concluding thanks to superheroes. The example might be changed to “I thanked my dad and mom — and Batman and Superman” or “I thanked my mother and father. I additionally thanked Batman and Superman.”
Although those draw the phrase out, they use the additional length to emphasize the assessment between the events being thanked. Far from demonstrating the necessity of the Oxford comma, this example suggests it affords clarity in list-making at the rate of elegant and effective writing.
The Oxford Comma Clutters Writing
Mandatory, that’s to mention mindless, use of the Oxford comma also litters writing with muddle. Each unnecessary comma is an excrescence. In the word, “Faith, desire and love continue to be,” appending a comma after “hope” might no longer clarify anything, but it would waste space and interrupt the drift of a beautiful passage.
In brief, the Oxford comma is regularly superfluous and a crutch for terrible writing, but it has many partisans who want to pressure it on all people. Why?
I doubt that many advocates for a mandatory Oxford comma are stressed over the parentage of the hypothetical individual who expressed gratitude to Batman and Superman. Rather, they’re irate at grading some other what-I-did-this-summer essay that consists of something like, “Then I went swimming at the lake with my brothers, Bill and Ted.” The ambiguity (Are Bill and Ted the scholar’s brothers or extra contributors to the party?) annoys the trainer reading approximately the adventure.
Many editors, lawyers, and corporate types can also have similar inflammation while coping with subordinates who can’t write clearly. For them, as for the teacher above, requiring the Oxford comma is a way to set up simple requirements for written precision. However, mandating the Oxford comma additionally makes terrible writing obligatory. Specific fields, along with criminal writing, might locate standardization extra vital than beauty, however, they’re the exception.
Rules Hamper Good Writing
It is understandable that the ones tasked with teaching and enhancing terrible writers want a rule. And policies may additionally help suffering writers keep away from egregious mistakes. But useless rules will bog down the development of accurate writers. Grammatical policies are tries to approximate the practices of the coolest writer, however, they may be inadequate to supply appropriate writing, and their legalistic application can also inhibit true writing.
The debate over the Oxford comma thus recreates, albeit with much lower stakes, a historical problem of rule-based structures, along with regulation and ethics. It is excellent to have a sensible ruler who can decide each case in accord with justice, however, such rulers are rare and can’t be everywhere after they do exist. The law (at great) tries to articulate an approximation of what’s just, but it can’t do so for all particulars and will similarly require expertise to interpret and apply in every circumstance.
Thus, even the excellent gadget of laws will once in a while dictate unjust affects — how a lot of discretion judges need to have in such cases is a sizable question, as that discretion includes the capacity to boom injustice — but the practical opportunity to the rule of thumb of law is in all likelihood worse. Furthermore, the fee of the rule of law does no longer makes every proposed law valuable. Some laws do not approximate justice, and imposing others can do extra harm than the top.
These perennial troubles of political philosophy can not be solved as such due to the fact human nature can not be solved. Nor does brooding about them resolve the tons smaller question of the Oxford comma. However, thinking about the price and barriers of policies on a grand scale may offer a framework for the current grammatical debate. The popular of desirable writing is not adherence to grammatical regulations. Rather, the best author is the standard.
Therefore, suitable writers will no longer obey the edicts of self-appointed grammar commissars. Rather, they’ll strive for “each word and sentence this is proper” where “every word is at home.” Every comma is just too, because of this best using them as essential.