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Oxford Comma Example
Posted: 11 November 2011 05:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
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http://verydemotivational.memebase.com/2011/11/10/demotivational-posters-punctuation-4/

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Posted: 11 November 2011 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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This whole Oxford comma thing has been getting quite out of hand lately.  Much ado about nothing.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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There’s a good discussion by Ben Zimmer here.

This whole Oxford comma thing has been getting quite out of hand lately.  Much ado about nothing.

Just because you personally don’t care about it, no one else should?

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Posted: 11 November 2011 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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My point is that there are times when the Oxford comma can clear up an ambiguity and there are times when the Oxford comma can cause ambiguity.  Most of the time it makes no difference, the example given in OP’s link being one.  In any case the ambiguity can almost always be cleared up without having to choose between using or not using the Oxford comma simply by changing the order of the elements in the list.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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But edited prose requires standards, it cannot depend on what each random reader thinks might work better in a given sentence.  A given style manual will either use the Oxford comma or not.  Many people have strong opinions about this.  It is not “much ado about nothing.”

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Posted: 11 November 2011 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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My mother, Ayn Rand, and the Pope probably agree with you.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Faldage, on the other hand, think of this example:

My mother, Mrs Tipping, Ayn Rand, and the Pope.

Regardless of whether the OC is used, ambiguity would remain on whether the second item was an added detail about the first, or whether the first and second were separate items.

For mine, the bottom line is that we need more punctuation marks. I’ll write to my local member immediately.

Actually, maybe we just need to use parentheses more often. Some people tut-tut, pooh-pooh, or even pish-tush, but I think this is a perfect case where you need brackets in prose.

My mother (Mrs Tipping), Ayn Rand and the Pope.

Or for the Oxfordians:

My mother (Mrs Tipping), Ayn Rand, and the Pope.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 08:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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OP Tipping - 11 November 2011 05:21 PM

Faldage, on the other hand, think of this example:

My mother, Mrs Tipping, Ayn Rand, and the Pope.

Just another example where it makes no difference whether you use the OC or not.  And the ambiguity can be resolved by changing the order in the list:  Mrs. Tipping, Ayn Rand, the Pope and my mother.  Or Ayn Rand, the Pope and my mother, Mrs Tipping.  The fact that style manuals differ as to whether they require or forbid the OC is just part of the ado.  I still maintain that it is about nothing.  And if anybody wants to complain that the Oxford comma was used on page 13 but not on page 84, well that’s just their problem.  They’re liable to be the ones that complain about any number of zombie rules.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 10:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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How do you feel about parentheses…

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Posted: 12 November 2011 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Faldage - 11 November 2011 05:43 AM

This whole Oxford comma thing has been getting quite out of hand lately.  Much ado about nothing.

You don’t see the point?

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Posted: 12 November 2011 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Parentheses work just fine but they might be considered a little intrusive by some.  I don’t see the point in making any flat statement about whether to use the OC or not.

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Posted: 12 November 2011 07:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I still maintain that it is about nothing.

I take it there’s nothing you care about that isn’t cared about by every other human being.

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Posted: 12 November 2011 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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languagehat - 12 November 2011 07:21 AM

I still maintain that it is about nothing.

I take it there’s nothing you care about that isn’t cared about by every other human being.

OK.  I must have some mental defect.  I’m having trouble parsing that sentence.  We might as well drop the subject.

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Posted: 12 November 2011 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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My point is simply that the “I don’t care about it, therefore it’s unimportant and I will make fun of anyone who does” attitude is extremely tiresome.  I basically dropped out of another forum I had spent a lot of time and energy on because it seemed like every post got “Who cares?” comments.  Who cares that you don’t care?

Edit: My animus, to be clear, is not against you, Faldage, long-time Wordorigins contributor, but against an attitude that I think is destructive and that I don’t want to catch on here.  The vast majority of humanity, after all, would look at the things we discuss at Wordorigins and say “Who cares?”

[ Edited: 12 November 2011 07:37 AM by languagehat ]
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Posted: 12 November 2011 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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While the serial comma is far from the most pressing issue facing humanity in the opening years of the twenty-first century, it is hardly “nothing.”

1) Maintaining a consistent style regarding commas in lists will reduce ambiguity. Whether or not you choose to use the Oxford comma is less important than picking a style and sticking to it.

2) While both using and not using the Oxford comma can result in ambiguous wording, the opportunities for confusion when you use the Oxford comma are fewer than when omitting it. For this reason, I prefer to use it.

3) Declaring that it “doesn’t matter,” is really the only bad style choice.

They’re liable to be the ones that complain about any number of zombie rules.

Absolutely not true. Insistence on adhering to a consistent style is completely different from insistence on adhering to nonsensical rules.

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Posted: 12 November 2011 08:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Dave Wilton - 12 November 2011 07:51 AM

1) Maintaining a consistent style regarding commas in lists will reduce ambiguity. Whether or not you choose to use the Oxford comma is less important than picking a style and sticking to it.

This is the part of the argument I don’t get.  Why is it important to be consistent about the use or non-use of the Oxford comma?  I get even less why it is important for a publication to insist on consistency among all authors published in it.  I wonder even more why it is important that all books from a given publisher maintain this consistency.  There are innumerable instances where a comma can reasonably be inserted, but can also reasonably be omitted.  Why this particular situation requires strict consistency is quite mysterious to me.

I have commented before that in those instances where my writing has been professionally copy edited I have found about a quarter of the changes to be beneficial, a small (but vital) number to be far worse, and the bulk to be pointless.  Any insertion or deletion of Oxford commas falls solidly in the “pointless” category.  I don’t worry about it one way or the other, but I do wonder that the copy editor has so much time on his hands that he has no better use for it.

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