INFOGRAPHIC | Tara Espinoza
The Oxford comma is the bread and butter of the English language. It is also the next stop in English education after learning to write simple sentences like “The cat is brown” or “The man wears a hat.”
There is no denying that the Oxford comma is essential, but the Associated Press is wrong about not using them in journalistic writing.
The reasoning behind the banning of the Oxford comma makes sense. According to AP guidelines, the explanation is that the comma is redundant because the “and” is replacing the comma. This makes sense on paper. It is horrid and confusing to look at in practice.
A prime example of this: Say I wrote a book. The front page would say, “This book is dedicated to my parents, cousin Walter, and Uncle Gideon.” This, of course, is a proper use of the Oxford comma and does not make anything confusing.
Now, according to AP style, it would read, “This book is dedicated to my parents, cousin Walter and Uncle Gideon.” This implies that my parents’ names are Cousin Walter and Uncle Gideon.
Luckily, book writing does not typically subscribe to the Associated Press style, but the example still stands as an example of how foolish the rule is.
As for the example sounding strange, AP style has a way around this. There are a few general ways to write as a journalist. Being concise and clear is a massive part of writing. The rule of thumb is to rewrite a sentence if it does not make sense without an Oxford comma.
Only this comes with a huge issue. The example sentence becomes, “This book is dedicated to my parents. This book is also dedicated to Cousin Walter and Uncle Gideon.” While there was no “redundancy” from the Oxford comma in this example, I added six unnecessary words to a sentence that would have been much shorter if an Oxford comma were featured within.
Book dedications are essential, but not six-extra-words important.
I personally believe that the Oxford comma should be allowed in AP style. There is no reason it should not be. It makes things more precise and concise, and the old ideas of “It makes it redundant” is an issue that does not crop up as much as the Associated Press is led to believe.
This Pro-Oxford-Comma rant is dedicated to my parents, Cousin Walter and Uncle Gideon.