Dear students of pedantry,

Paul Simon famously sang that there are 50 ways to leave your lover.  I say there are 50 ways to kill a pedant, one of which is the fabled ‘Oxford comma’.

I refer not to the Vampire Weekend single quoted above, of course, but to the habit of using a comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.  So called because of its popularity amongst writers, editors, and publishers at the Oxford University Press.  Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I used one back there, just to illustrate my point. 

Whilst technically not one of the seven deadly pedant sins (unlike yesterday’s apostrophe outrage), usage of the Oxford comma is genuinely frowned upon by today’s style gurus, in favour of the far more elegant semi-colon – the épée to the comma’s sabre, if you like.  The only exception is the OUP, of course, who like their little anachronisms and argue that the Oxford comma is still perfectly legitimate: –

 They would, of course – to change tack would be akin to turkeys voting for Xmas, grammatical pheasants voting for the Glorious Twelfth.  I disagree.  Don’t use commas before the word ‘and’.  It just looks silly and dated.  Normally I would defer to the OUP but on this issue I shall stand my ground. 


The Naked Pedant