I have a love/hate relationship with the Oxford comma.
As a young, impressionable elementary schooler, I was instructed in the ways of correct grammar and proper writing. (I don’t know what they’re teaching kids nowadays, but if certain social networking sites are any indication of the schooling in America, grammar seems to have taken a backseat in education.) In those days, “correct grammar” and “proper writing” included the Oxford comma.
I soon became passionate not only about correct grammar, but commas themselves. I admire the long, flowing sentences of Emily Brontë and Jane Austen. Many of the great Edgar Allan Poe’s beautifully crafted sentences could be classified as run-on, complete with comma splices. So where did that leave me? In love with commas, including those of the Oxford variety.
Then, I became a journalism student. Journalists do not use Oxford commas. It’s uncouth. Journalists need efficiency. They need to write as many facts in as little space as possible. The Oxford comma, though lovely in my opinion, simply does not lend itself to such aspirations. My AP Stylebook up and slapped all dreams of Oxford commas from my fragile head.
Thus, I’ve become quite the confused college student. I never know when to use the Oxford comma and when not to. Sure, I know to leave it out when writing for The Cluster, but what do I do when writing a Great Books essay? It’s like leading a double life. I’m cheating on the Oxford comma, and he doesn’t even know it. Sure, I’ll use him in an essay, but little does he know that I don’t need him while writing articles.
Then again, I’ve noticed less and less usage of Oxford commas. Some essays leave them out. Some bloggers do not use them. I’ve even started to wonder if Oxford commas should be used at all. Are teachers telling kids not to use them? Have I been committing a grammatical fallacy every time I use one? Surely not every blogger is a journalist, not every essayist a media student. So why aren’t they using Oxford commas? Have I been mistaken (or lied to) my entire life? Do Oxford commas even exist?
And what about this blog? Is it in the more journalistic style, wherein my use of Oxford commas is impractical? Or is it more literary, wherein I can use as many commas (Oxford or not) to my heart’s content?
These are the great questions I wrestle with. Obviously, my life is of great worth…
C’est l’exception qui confirme la règle,