This is a small bit of punctuation nerdery. Have you heard of the Oxford comma? No? It’s this (bolded and italicized):
I like my scrambled eggs with lox, cheese, and chives.
It’s that last comma before the last “and” (or sometimes “or” or “nor”) in a sentence with a list of three or more items. This is a smartypants comma, as it’s also sometimes called the Harvard comma (or the serial comma). And, of course, it has a Wikipedia entry. The big controversy is: Should we use it or shouldn’t we?
Do you use the Oxford comma? I didn’t used to, but now that I have a Master’s degree and am pretty much a huge smartypants, I’ve started using it. (That’s just my theory for why I’ve added it to my writing…I think I started using it consistently about two years ago after seeing it somewhere and wondering, in my paranoid way, whether I’d actually been doing it wrong all these years. Just like I consciously changed the “a” character of my handwriting in middle school after seeing someone doing it differently because I thought I’d been in the wrong for years. Call it a grammar version of “keeping up with the Joneses.”)
There’s no consensus for whether or not you should or shouldn’t use it in your manuscript, but isn’t it wonderful to be aware of such civilized things and to make such überimportant decisions? Without thinking about commas, we turn into animals. Or cannibals, even! (I’m referring here to a funny comma omission that implicates Rachael Ray on a magazine cover…even though this isn’t an Oxford comma issue.)
Also, Monday was my mom’s birthday. You don’t know the woman (she’s wonderful, trust me), but without her and her art (no, I’m not being big-headed and just talking about me…she’s actually also an artist), your life would be about 75% less awesome and you likely wouldn’t have awoken this fine Wednesday to read about the Oxford/Harvard/smartypants comma. I think a hearty round of applause is in order.
Hmm. It seems I’ve adopted a rather faux-pompous blog personality as of late. Maybe I’m en route to becoming the Stephen Colbert of children’s books. Not bad. Not bad…
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