Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Why the Serial Comma Is So Essential

Who cares in regards to the Oxford comma?

Traditionally, the reply has been grammar nerds, Strunk & White, and those that comply with the notorious Chicago versus AP writing model information debate.

And after this lawsuit a number of years in the past, we added dairy driver to the record.

That’s as a result of an appellate court docket dominated in favor of Maine dairy drivers in a labor dispute that hinged on the oft-debated piece of punctuation.

For anybody who’s ever questioned what all of the fuss is about over Oxford commas, the circuit choose’s 2017 opinion says all of it:

“For need of a comma, we have now this case.”

Barron, Circuit Decide

Let’s get into why the oxford comma could make such a distinction

What’s the Oxford Comma or the Serial Comma?

For these in want of a grammar guidelines refresh, right here’s a fast overview.

Typically referred to as the serial comma, the Oxford comma is a comma positioned between the final two gadgets in a sequence of three or extra.

For instance, the Oxford comma falls after “hat” on this sentence:

“She wore a jacket, hat, and mittens.”

Whereas some writing model guides don’t use this comma, supporters say it’s essential to keep away from potential ambiguity. And if there’s one factor writers can agree on, it’s the significance of readability. In some instances, an additional comma issues.

Does AP Model Use the Oxford Comma?

The brief reply: No.

Many writers, together with journalists, stay by the Related Press stylebook. AP model doesn’t use Oxford commas.

Nevertheless, Chicago model does require Oxford commas. That’s the Chicago Handbook of Model, which is often utilized by e book publishers, teachers, and commerce publications.

So the choice about whether or not to make use of the serial comma depends on what sort of writing you’re doing, and which model information applies to that mission.

Should you’re writing for a information web site, you most likely wish to comply with AP model and skip the additional punctuation. Should you’re writing a novel you propose to undergo publishers, you most likely wish to comply with Chicago model, which does use the Oxford comma.

An Instance to Comply with

Let’s evaluation how the Oxford comma works.

Right here’s an instance of a sentence with the Oxford comma:

“I love my dad and mom, Gandhi, and Mom Teresa.”

It’s clear on this instance that I love my dad and mom, in addition to Gandhi, and Mom Teresa.

However take away that serial comma, and the sentence reads, “I love my dad and mom, Gandhi and Mom Teresa.”

One may argue that, written this manner, the sentence implies that Gandhi and Mom Teresa are my dad and mom. Whereas the common particular person would know this isn’t prone to be the case, it illustrates how simply a lacking comma can change the that means of a sentence. gives extra humorous examples

It was exactly the sort of ambiguity that led to the Maine case with the dairy farmers.

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The Oxford Comma Debate, And A $10 Million Comma

On this class motion lawsuit, drivers for Oakhurst Dairy sued the corporate over its failure to grant them time beyond regulation pay.

Employees in Maine are entitled to 1.5 occasions their regular pay for hours labored over 40 per week, based on state legislation. Nevertheless, there are exemptions to this rule. Particularly, the legislation states, corporations don’t should pay time beyond regulation for the next actions:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, advertising, storing, packing for cargo or distribution of:

  1. Agricultural produce;
  2. Meat and fish product; and
  3. Perishable meals

Word the top of the opening line, the place there isn’t any comma earlier than the “or.”

Oakhurst Dairy argued its drivers didn’t qualify for time beyond regulation as a result of they interact in distribution, and the spirit of the legislation meant to record “packing for cargo” and “distribution” as two separate exempt actions.

Nevertheless, the drivers argued the letter of the legislation stated no such factor. With out that telltale Oxford comma, the legislation could possibly be learn to exclude solely packing—whether or not it was packing for cargo or packing for distribution. Distribution by itself, on this case, would not be exempt.

With out that comma, because the choose maintained, this distinction was not clear-cut:

If that exemption used a serial comma to mark off the final of the actions that it lists, then the exemption would clearly embody an exercise that the drivers carry out. And, in that occasion, the drivers would plainly fall throughout the exemption and thus outdoors the time beyond regulation legislation’s safety. However, because it occurs, there isn’t any serial comma to be discovered within the exemption’s record of actions, thus resulting in this dispute over whether or not the drivers fall throughout the exemption from the time beyond regulation legislation or not.

Barron, Circuit Decide

Consequently, the court docket present in favor of the drivers, costing the dairy an estimated $10 million.

A Win for the Oxford Comma: This Lawsuit Shows Why It's So Important.

Comma Guidelines: To Comma, or To not Comma?

As a diehard Oxford comma loyalist, this ruling made my day.

Whereas lots of the websites I write for as a freelance blogger comply with AP model, which is sans-serial comma, I nonetheless sneak one in when it appears wanted to keep away from confusion. This case backs up that behavior as extra than simply an old-school tic I haven’t but let go.

Whereas the controversy should still rage on over whether or not Oxford commas are essential on a regular basis, this ruling upholds the follow of utilizing them once they’re important to thrust back ambiguity.

So, who care in regards to the Oxford comma? The reply, based on the courts, is formally: anybody who’s desirous about readability.

Take that, AP model!

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That is an up to date model of a narrative that was beforehand revealed. We replace our posts as usually as potential to make sure they’re helpful for our readers.

Photograph by way of Lamai Prasitsuwan/ Shutterstock

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