How I came to use the ‘Oxford Comma’.
This book went through three major edits.
The first was completed by an ex-radio producer, presenter, and announcer. He took my rather serious explanations and turned them into the light-hearted versions that you can read today. He wrote this about roosters:
“They see their task as leading the pack, protecting the hens and fertilising their eggs” and “The chicken coop should be kept free of vermin like mites, lice and fleas”.
The second edit was done by a professional proofreader who then came back with some changes, including what is known as the Oxford or serial comma. He had changed the examples above to:
“They see their task as leading the pack, protecting the hens, and fertilising their eggs” and “The chicken coop should be kept free of vermin like mites, lice, and fleas …”
The difference between the two edits is the addition of the ‘Oxford comma.’
This is a final or serial comma in a list of things. So, in the examples above I had a list of three vermin – mites, lice and fleas – and an Oxford comma was then added before the ‘and’.
Apparently, among ‘grammar nerds’ the decision as to whether one includes this comma or not, is a controversial issue and, if you’ve read my blog this far, you probably are a grammar nerd!
The third edit was done by a former journalist, design editor, producer for newspapers, and radio and public relations expert. When it was her turn to edit, she drew a line through every instance of the Oxford comma. Back to square one?
She did also note that it was a matter of personal choice and she left it up to me as to whether I kept the commas or not.
The upshot of this fascinating debate is that I kept the comma because it is more precise.
As my excellent proofreader stated, “People either vote Liberal or Labor, and people either use the ‘Oxford comma’ or not! Debate on the topic is often quite heated… Both formats are ‘correct.’”