Karma for the Comma

I love that visual pun.

It’s brilliant.

I also love the song that inspired it. Let’s listen to it and then look closely at that often misused and abused piece of punctuation that is the comma.

The comma has a few basic functions and rolls to play in a sentence, but today I would like to look at just one of its many uses.

Commas help separate items in a list.

I went to the store and bought apples, marshmallows, cookies, and milk.

Whenever you write a list, you need to include a comma after each item. In the above example, I used what is called the Oxford Comma.

Wars have been fought over this little comma. I should know. I just had a huge fight with my girlfriend about it.

She argues that you do not need to include a comma before the “and.” It seems that there are a growing number of people out there who agree with her. They believe that the Oxford Comma is redundant.

I can’t understand this reasoning at all. If the last comma is omitted, I invariable read those last two items as being naturally together. Sometimes, that just doesn’t make sense for the sentence. Leaving out the Oxford Comma just creates confusion.

Let’s look at an example where this is the case.

They had a choice between croissants, bacon and eggs, and muesli.

In this above example, we can see that there are three items in this list. No comma is needed between bacon and eggs since they are naturally grouped together. It makes sense.

Here’s a hilarious example of what can happen when the last comma is absent.

This newspaper caption reads, “Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.”

The Oxford Comma is missing and to great peril. The way it reads, it sounds like two of his colleagues were, in fact, married to him at one time. This is not the case, and this confusion could have easily been avoided with the correct placement of the Oxford Comma.

I rest my case.

What are your thoughts?

Do you use the Oxford, or serial comma? 

Do you think it’s redundant? 

Please leave a comment and extend this argument debate.