Ah, the Oxford Comma, otherwise known as the serial comma. The single, most important punctuation in all of English grammar. No matter the genre or field, I adamantly encourage authors to utilize the Oxford Comma for maximum readability, comprehension, and fluidity. Yes, yes – I’m aware of the abhorrible AP Style, the one where they just list things like a precocious child working off a single breath of air. I cringe every time I see it.
Many people shrug off the importance of the Oxford Comma, citing the universal rule that it is up to the author. I’m here to disperse your antipathetic ways and encourage you to seek linguistic enlightenment. To begin down the path of knowledge, consider the following example:
I invited my relatives, Lady Gaga and Steve Carrell to my birthday party.
AP Style indicates that this is written correctly, but you and I know it’s not. The statement’s intended meaning is that I invited my relatives and Lady Gaga and Steve Carrell to my birthday party. Without the Oxford Comma, it’s easy to misinterpret this account and believe that I invited my relatives whose names are Lady Gaga and Steve Carrell.
What about this one?
I love my hobbies, dancing and eating ice cream.
Do you love your hobbies which are dancing and eating ice cream? Or do you love your hobbies and dancing and eating ice cream?
The Oxford Comma is a simple but enduringly effective method to ensure there is no confusion in your writing.
Now, come walk with me and revel in syntactic Nirvana.