They say if you love something, set it free. That’s what I am doing with the Oxford comma.
Just a refresher: the Oxford comma, also called the series comma or the serial comma, is the comma used immediately before a grammatical conjunction—such as and or or—preceding the final item in a list of three or more items. For example, a list of three fruits can be punctuated as either “apples, oranges, and bananas” (with the Oxford comma) or “apples, oranges and bananas” (without the Oxford comma).
I don’t know for certain, but I suspect the Oxford comma made its way into accepted practice around the mid-1960s. At least that’s the time I began writing sentences. I must have been right on the cusp, so I’ve always used the comma.
I do know those older than I eschew it. My father is horrified by an Oxford comma. My brother, eight years my junior and an accomplished public relations executive, uses it. The attitude of some much younger may best be expressed in a 2008 song by the group Vampire Weekend, called “Who Gives a F*** About an Oxford Comma?” In general, older writers don’t like the comma, younger ones do and the youngest ones may not really care. That’s a subject for another day (but let it be noted that I have some faithful readers who are under 25 and keenly attuned to such matters).
Whether or not an Oxford comma is correct truly depends upon which authority you consult. Nevertheless, a wise wordmistress reminded me just recently that consistency is what’s more important.
Either way, this year I’ve made a definitive choice. Perhaps it is a desire to return to a cleaner, simpler way of life. I am making a conscious shift and ditching the Oxford comma. No ifs, ands or buts.