From My Cold, Dead, and Callused Hands!

I refer of course to the serial/Oxford comma, which is the difference between “A, B, and C” and “A, B and C.” Apparently, even an Oxford style guide has dropped it from usage, except where absolutely required for clarity.

Some lines, borders, or boundaries must not be crossed. This is one of them. This decision must be reviled, scorned, and disregarded, and I will not be satisfied until the style manual in question has been shredded, burned, and scattered across the nearest pond, lake, or ocean. That’s just how I roll.

H/T: Tony Shreck, via Facebook.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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9 Responses to From My Cold, Dead, and Callused Hands!

  1. I understand how you feel. I still hate the DH passionately … and inter-league play in Major League Baseball is an affront to civilization.

    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

  2. Somewhere along the way, the comma became a bad thing. I had some sales VP once holler that he could delete half the commas from day-to-day writing and the result would be major improvement. I thought he was an idiot.

    The rules for comma use are pretty clearly laid out and simple to learn. Leaving out the serial comma is potentially confusing under a handful of common examples. I rate the requirement for omitting serial commas equivalent to the nonsense about the dangers of splitting infinitives; this was based on an archaic neoclassicism that itself was a fad when it was introduced. Some rules are rules merely for the sake of being rules, and do little to help comprehension or develop concise writing.

    However, I do advocate avoidance of placing prepositions at the end of sentences if it can be helped.

  3. Andrew Stevens says:

    Czar, not ending sentences with prepositions comes from the same root as not splitting infinitives. Both prescriptions were based on whether the sentence could be translated directly into Latin. (In Latin it’s impossible to split an infinitive and you’d never end a sentence with a preposition.) I know of no way to give a firm guideline on when one should or should not end a sentence with a preposition, but I know that lots of times it’s perfectly acceptable (e.g. when the preposition is being used, as it often is in English, as part of the verb). The idea that one should never do so is a prescription up with which I will not put.

  4. Kate P says:

    I agree that the serial (Oxford) comma made things a lot clearer, but I never won that argument with the attorneys back in my previous life of lease writing. (The other argument I lost? The apostrophe for “30 days’ notice.” *Sob!*)

  5. Fear and Loathing in Georgetown says:

    First thing that came into my mind, as it apparently did for every other reader, is clarity. The lack of a serial comma has created so many sentences open to needless ambiguity.

    Incidentally, my more cynical side came out when reading Kate P’s comment, and my theory is that lawyers desire needless ambiguity to create opportunities for future legal challenges.

  6. nightfly says:

    William Strunk and EB White approve of this post.

  7. @ Andrew Stevens: Exactly what I learned: “it is impossible to splint infinitives in Latin, so we can conclude there must be a reason not to do so in English” is the neoclassicism I referenced! Nice job.

    My point on the prepositions was simply “The person with whom I travel is my wife” keeps the antedencent closer to the subject and simply sounds better (to me) than “The person I travel with is my wife.” In this example, it’s six of one, but in longer, more complex sentences, the “with whom” or “with which” construct becomes more apparent.

  8. Like all upright, upstanding, and uplifted individuals, I also oppose the upstart serial comma killer!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

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