The Oxford Comma And Why You Should Use It

Learn how to use an Oxford comma properly when writing about lists of things.

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• Education: Grammar • Education: Stuff You Should Know

Matt Anderson's Take
You've probably never heard of an Oxford comma, right? Maybe you know it as a "serial comma" instead? Still not ringing a bell? Of course not, it's one of those little unknown things and unless you're the Captain of your local Grammar Police you don't know its name.

But that doesn't mean it's unimportant, quite the opposite. You might be using it already and not even know it. Or you might not be using it and the things you write aren't being read as you intended.

Oxford Comma Explained

The simple explanation is that an Oxford comma (or serial comma) is the final comma right before the word "and" in a list. Take the following sentence as an example...

I love tacos, soda, and rice.

The comma after the word "soda" is the Oxford comma. It clearly shows that there are three separate items that I love.

Why Use An Oxford Comma?

So what's the big deal exactly? Well, now look at the same sentence without it...

I love tacos, soda and rice.

In this example, I'm showing that I love two things. The first thing would be the tacos. The second would be "soda and rice" as one combined thing. See how it's different?

Should I Be Using An Oxford Comma?

Yes, there is no question here, you absolutely should be using the Oxford comma when making lists of things. Forget any non-sense you heard about newspapers and media outlets not using it. They're flat out wrong and live in an outdated age where space in printed newspapers are precious. Always use an Oxford comma in your lists!
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