What is Oxford Comma? When to Use it? Here is a Full Guide

The Oxford comma holds the distinction of being one of the most disputed grammar rules in English. This tiny punctuation mark, often known as the serial comma, has been vehemently defended — or dismissed — by grammarians for years. Get a comprehensive guide on the Oxford comma so you can form your own opinion regarding its usage.

The Grammarly editor Brittney Ross had once said, “Oxford commas are like the Ugg boots of the punctuation world. People either love them or hate them or don’t know what they are.” So to clear many people’s doubt and put it simply, the Oxford comma is a comma.

How to use the Oxford comma?

The Oxford comma is inserted before the coordinating conjunction in a group of three or more items. It can be used as the final comma separating a group of items in both “and” and “or” lists. It helps to distinguish between the things on the list, especially the last two, and to help organise these items.  Here are some of the examples for the use of the Oxford commas for you to get a basic understanding of how it functions.

Example 1. She liked to read books, paint portraits, and take her dog for a walk.

Example 2. When going on the trip, we need to make sure to pack, make the bed, and shut off the lights before we leave.

Example 3. Peter, Paul, Jane, and Anna are all going to join the meeting today.

Can we omit the Oxford Comma?

The use of the Oxford comma is stylistic, meaning that some style guides demand its use while others don’t. Many claim that the removal of the Oxford Comma can confuse a reader, while those urging for its removal claim that without an Oxford Comma a sentence can also be understood if written differently.

Here is an example explaining a sentence with and without the comma.

Sentence: I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.

Without the Oxford comma, the sentence above could be interpreted as stating that you love your parents, and your parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.

Here’s the same sentence with the Oxford comma:

Nearly as much controversy surrounds the Oxford comma’s creation as its use. It’s simple to understand why the Oxford comma is thus named. In his 1978 informal history of the Oxford University Press, Peter Sutcliffe coined the phrase. It’s unclear what the initial invention was. Sutcliffe attributes F with creating the Oxford comma. the author of the 1912 Authors’ & Printers’ Dictionary, Howard Collins. Collins, in turn, acknowledges Herbert Spencer as the source of information.

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