A little random, but given that you're such an expert in English, what is your opinion on the Oxford comma?
I’m not an expert, but I’ve noticed that having an opinion on the Oxford comma (almost always in its favor) in one’s online presence is really common (like on someone’s tumblr it might say “I use the Oxford comma” on their About Me) and I find this hilarious.
But I think the Oxford comma a very good thing - it may not be absolutely necessary (and I guess the consensus is that it’s probably not), but it can only improve clarity (using it could never be a bad thing as far as I can tell), and now ever since I’ve noticed this, I find it incredibly distracting when people don’t use it (my linguistics professor, for example). I can imagine, if I were a writing teacher, forcing students to use it, but in the back of my mind I would always probably feel that it was an arbitrary imposition of my own stylistic taste.
I guess it probably falls into one of those linguistics debates about context, since in examples like this, which I love, you obviously would be able to infer the intended meaning (although there would still be room for ambiguity (but isn’t there always room for ambiguity, Derrida?)). I guess this probably makes the Oxford more necessary in “literary” writing and such, where you would need to be able to distinguish between intentional and unintentional punctuation ambiguity (or something), than anywhere else.
Short version: yes, I use the Oxford comma.
[Side note: Calling it the Oxford comma is apparently pretty funny since, according to Wikipedia, it is actually considered non-standard usage in Britain (and in many other languages), and is more common in American English. Also, it’s also known as the Harvard comma. I wonder if that’s what they call it in the U.K. Would anyone more U.K.-familiar care to chime in on this?]
The #Oxford#comma is the comma that precedes the last in a list of three or more items: My favorite subjects are history, biology, reading, and acting.
If you’re unsure whether or not to use the Oxford comma the easy, use is: use it! This is because omitting the final comma may cause ambiguities, whereas including it never will. Using the Oxford comma is still more common in written English.
The Oxford comma is also known as the “serial comma” or “Harvard comma”.