A win for the “Oxford comma”

The Oxford comma is the one that follows the next-to-last item in a list, e.g., “I went to the bookstore, the deli, and the doctor.” The comma following “deli” is the Oxford comma, and most of us are taught in grade school that we shouldn’t use it, that we should write “I went to the bookstore, the deli and the doctor.”

What do you know? An American court has held in favor of the comma.

That’s because an appellate court recently ruled in favor of Maine dairy drivers in a labor dispute that hinged on the oft-debated piece of punctuation.

For anyone who’s ever wondered what all the fuss is about over Oxford commas, the circuit judge’s opinion says it all: “For want of a comma, we have this case.”

I almost always use an Oxford comma. My rule is simple, and is unlikely to ever steer you wrong or land you in court: Read the sentence back to yourself, and put a comma in if you would briefly pause if you were speaking the sentence aloud to another person. Write as you speak.

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