EDIT ME — WTH is an Oxford Comma?

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I get a lot of questions about comma placement. Today I’ll lead you by the hand into the dark, murky waters of comma usage, beginning with this naughty little comma known as Oxford.


Oxford does not wear an ascot or tight-fitting breeches as we would love to believe. Nor does he play rugby or ride horses. WTH does he do, then?

Definition of Oxford Comma according to OxfordDictionaries.com:

The ‘Oxford comma’ is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list:

We sell books, videos, and magazines.

It’s known as the Oxford comma because it was traditionally used by printers, readers, and editors at Oxford University Press.  Not all writers and publishers use it, but it can clarify the meaning of a sentence when the items in a list are not single words:

These items are available in black and white, red and yellow, and blue and green.

The Oxford comma is also known as the ‘serial comma’.

The Oxford/serial comma is used to separate words in a series. For instance:

Jack grabbed vodka, cherry juice, and a slice of pineapple from the refrigerator. (side note: IDK what this drink might be called, but I want one.)

One note about our pal Oxford. He isn’t used by all publishers. You’ll have to check with your publisher about whether or not they use it. After all, adding them can save your editor a lot of time.

However, if your publisher doesn’t show Oxford any love, or you’re self-published and simply choose not to use him, that’s totally acceptable. JUST BE CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT THE BOOK. If you’re using him, commit. If you are shunning our poor Ox-ie, then completely turn a blind eye to him.

Thanks for reading!



4 comments on “EDIT ME — WTH is an Oxford Comma?

  1. I’m an old woman who was raised to believe that the Oxford Comma wasn’t “optional”. It makes me sad that he gets shunned so often. lol

  2. I was brought up believing that you do not put a comma before “and.” It’s just not done. Though I can see how it clarifies a sentence and have sneaked in the odd Oxford comma.

  3. I, too, was raised to believe Mr. Oxford was not optional. Thus my love affair with the Oxford comma. *hugs him tight*

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