Posts Tagged ‘media’

Your reckless abuse of the Oxford comma is furthering the demise of the English language

Oxford comma-nistas around the world are having a heyday over a recent push alert sent by Sky News, which they believe is the end-all, be-all argument in favor of their precious punctuation mark.


Now, let’s be clear: The Oxford comma is necessary in this “sentence” as it’s written. Obviously, there are some pretty serious implications without it. However, this whole “sentence,” if you can even call it that, could be rewritten for clarity, and we would not have been subjected to all this nonsense in the first place. The Oxford comma-nistas would never suggest that though!

See, the purpose of a comma when used in a list is to replace the word “and.” When you use an Oxford comma in a list of three or more items, it’s redundant. You’re essentially writing “and and.” And that’s just silly.

Let me spell it out for you using another famed Oxford comma-nista example: Instead of saying “We invited the strippers and JFK and Stalin,” you substitute “and” with commas. “We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.”

See how I used the Oxford comma there? Because it’s necessary for clarity. Without it, one could infer the writer is saying JFK and Stalin are strippers. Better yet, you could just rewrite the sentence to read “We invited JFK, the strippers and Stalin.” Because what kind of red-blooded American puts strippers before JFK, anyway?

(JFK. JFK may have put strippers before himself.)

I’m certainly not for an outright ban of the Oxford comma. I just ask that people tasked with the glorious responsibility of writing sentences pause to think about whether it’s necessary instead of blindly inserting it. Because if you can’t make that distinction, do you really have any business writing sentences in the first place? Especially those involving world leaders and strippers.

I mean, have you been on the Internet lately? Couldn’t we all benefit from everyone taking a moment to consider whether their sentences could be written more clearly?

And Oxford comma-nistas, let me ask you: With the current state of the English language, do you really want more people paying less attention to appropriate punctuation use? Do you want society to inflict upon your precious comma the same fate that has befallen the poor semi-colon? Just scattering it throughout sentences from time to time, showing no courtesy for its intended use? Do you really have so little respect for a punctuation mark you claim to love? HAVE YOU NO SENSE OF DECENCY?!

If you continue your misguided crusade, before you know it all the written word will consist of is emoticons and Oxford commas:

SmileConfused, Loser, and Dizzy. LOL!

So, knowing what the future holds, do you still want to continue on your quest? Let’s take a quick poll:


If your answer is still yes, fine. But just know you’ll be on the wrong side of history.

I demand a correction!

We were going through some old photo albums at my grandma’s house this weekend, and I came across this clipping from the publication for which I currently happen to work:


Yep, that second graf is a blurb announcing the birth of yours truly in the June 13, 1985, edition of the Great Falls Tribune, two weeks after I was born. Pretty cool, huh?

That’s what I thought, too, until I noticed … the error.

OK, “error” is not exactly accurate. It’s really just a typo. A typo made back in the day when reporters still click-clacked away on an old-timey machine called a “typewriter” and could not even imagine the simple convenience of hitting the backspace key to erase an error. During the era when they measured copy with pica poles and laid out the paper using “paste ups.” Whatever that means. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Check facts. They may have used computers by the ’80s … In which case, UNACCEPTABLE!)

But the irony of a proper grammar/spelling/punctuation enthusiast finding a typo more than 28 years later in her own birth announcement — published in the very paper for which she works, where she started her journalism career as a copy editor — was not lost on me.

So this morning, I strolled into the morning news meeting with other editors and reporters, slapped the clip down on the table in front of the city editor and demanded a correction. Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a copy editor, so I mainly received puzzled looks at first regarding the “error” I wanted corrected.

“Do I look like somebody’s DAUG-ter to you people?!?!?” I bellowed. “DO I?”

Most people caught on at this point, and we all had a good laugh. I was then reminded that we run corrections for factual errors, not typos. (Because let’s face it, with shrinking staffs and newshole, there’s simply not enough room to publish corrections for all the typos papers make these days … ba-du-dum-ching!)

I figured I’d give it a shot though. Maybe I’ll even write the correction myself and try to slip it in. I owe it to all the remaining copy editors out there to try, at least.

%d bloggers like this: