The Oxford Comma: Let's have a crucial conversation!

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I am a fairly laid-back person, but when it comes to the debate over the Oxford comma, I can get riled up! It’s so true; I can go from Ariel to Ursula in a matter of seconds when defending it!  Unlike Ursula, I don’t want to take the writer’s “voice” away, but I do want to make sure students learn about proper punctuation and why things like the Oxford comma matter!

The Oxford comma (also known as the serial comma) is the comma used in a sentence before the coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor) at the end of a list of three or more items.  It is called the Oxford comma because it is the house style used by the editors and printers of the Oxford University Press. 

Most American English style guides recommend using the Oxford comma, and so does Shurley English.  In order to clarify information, the rule says to put a comma between words in a series.  For example:  I like apples, bananas, and oranges.

The controversy over the comma began when the Associated Press and journalistic style guidelines advised against using the serial comma in an effort to save space and pack in more news per square inch.  Now, the tiny omission of the Oxford comma to save space has left a huge number of people confused about its use and purpose.

I consider the debate about the Oxford comma a crucial conversation, so allow me to use contrasting to demonstrate my point.  Contrasting is a technique used to clear up misunderstandings by using Don’t/Do statements.   As you read these Don’t /Do examples, notice how the Oxford comma clarifies meaning and keeps any type of misunderstanding from happening! Correct punctuation matters, so follow the rules!


Don’t write:  My heroes are my parents, Superman and Wonder Woman.

Do write:  My heroes are my parents, Superman, and Wonder Woman.


Don’t Write:  I owe my success to my parents, the president and the vice president.

Do Write:  I owe my success to my parents, the president, and the vice president.


Don’t Write:  I love cooking, my family and my pets.

Do Write:  I love cooking, my family, and my pets.

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK.