This is a small bit of punctuation nerdery about the Oxford comma. Have you heard of this little guy? No? It’s this (bolded and italicized):
I like my scrambled eggs with lox, cheese, and chives.
What is the Oxford Comma?
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 the serial comma 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 serial comma issue.)
Using commas correctly is only small part of writing good sentences. Follow the link for more advice for honing in on those details that’ll make your writing sparkle.
An exciting novel begins at the sentence level. Hire me as your novel editor and we will engineer great fiction together from the ground up, Oxford commas or not — your call. 😉