Recently, our copy editor Liz wrote a great post about Why You Need to be Using the Oxford Comma. Liz is a grammar girl. She eats commas and em dashes for breakfast.
I, however, am all about stretching the rules of grammar to meet my own needs.
Are You Too Cool for the Oxford Comma? Because I Am.
One time, Liz was looking over something of mine and said, “So you’re too cool for the Oxford comma, huh?”
“What the heck is an Oxford comma?” I said.
“The Oxford comma is the comma before the ‘and’ in a list.”
“Then yes, I am too cool for it.”
If the Oxford comma is a prepster in chinos and a green LaCoste polo, I’m a hipster in a dirty flannel shirt and skinny jeans. If the Oxford comma is, in fact, Oxford, I’m the year you took off college to go chill with some Maasai in Kenya. If the Oxford comma is a MacBook Pro, I’m that manual typewriter you got at a yard sale that everyone sees and asks, “Is that a real typewriter? Can I try it?”
Three Reasons to Reject the Oxford Comma
Who needs the Oxford comma? Shoot who needs commas in general?
Commas are ugly (they look kind of like sperm).
Commas are overused.
Commas are really just strange little squigglies. They are distractions from your real purpose: words.
Examples of Writers Saying No to the Oxford Comma
Watch Cormac McCarthy, another rule breaker, show the comma who’s boss:
They dumped out the wooden coffeebox on the floor and kicked through his clothes and his shaving things and they turned the mattress over in the floor. They were dressed in greasy and blackened khaki uniforms and they smelled of sweat and woodsmoke.
See the utter lack of commas (or really much punctuation at all)? I plucked this out of a random page in All the Pretty Horses. I like McCarthy because he’s a rule breaker. He’s way too cool for the Oxford comma.
Gertrude Stein had this bomb to drop on the comma in her book On Punctuation:
The comma, well at the most a comma is a poor period that lets you stop and take a breath but if you want to take a breath you ought to know yourself that you want to take a breath. It is not like stopping altogether has something to do with going on, but taking a breath well you are always taking a breath and why emphasize one breath rather than another breath. Anyway that is the way I felt about it and I felt that about it very very strongly. And so I almost never used a comma.
Gertrude Stein is awesome and so is not using commas, especially pretentious Oxford commas. Enough said.
Are you a grammarphile? Check out our free tutorial Grammar 101 and become the life of every party… well, maybe not, but at least you’ll be a better writer.
How about you? Are you on Team Oxford comma?
Break some rules and practice making lists without the Oxford comma. List the items on your coffee table and then the items in your room. Like this:
There is a mess of books, a replica of the Eiffel Tower, a coffee cup from yesterday and a teal typewriter.
Then, show commas who’s the boss altogether by interacting with those objects like Cormac McCarthy. I’ll give you an example:
He got up and picked up the cup and he took a sip and he went to the trash and threw the cup away and he sat down.
Got it? Use the timer to write for fifteen minutes.