Ok, but what does it mean?
- The serial comma (or Oxford Comma) is used after a series (a list) of nouns.
- I need to buy detergent, shampoo, and doggie treats. (WITH COMMA)
- I need to buy detergent, shampoo and doggie treats. (WITHOUT COMMA)
In these examples the meaning is the same with or without the serial comma (or Oxford Comma). But now let's take a look at an example in which the meaning DOES change. I will use an example from a video that I will share at the end.
- Here is the difference between using the serial comma (or Oxford Comma) and not using it:
- A. I'm having a party, so bring your friend Bob, a D.J., and a clown. (WITH COMMA)
- B. I'm having a party, so bring your friend Bob, a D.J. and a clown. (WITHOUT COMMA)
Now let's take a look at the difference in meaning of sentence A and sentence B.
Sentence A can be interpreted in two different ways:
- Bring your friend Bob (who is a D.J.) and also bring a clown. (2 people)
- Bring your friend Bob, a D.J. and also bring a clown. (3 people)
Sentence B implies the following:
- Bring your friend Bob, who is a D.J. and who is also a clown...he has two jobs. (1 person)
Are you confused yet? These little details make a big difference. Punctuation is important in transmitting what we want to communicate in our writing.
So let's take a look again at Sentence A and B. In order to clarify if you want your friend to bring 2 or 3 people, we can rewrite the sentences like this:
- C: (2 people) Bring your friend Bob, who is a D.J., and a clown. (this is a non-restrictive clause)
- D: (3 people) Bring a D.J., a clown and your friend Bob.
Now, the debate presented in this video is whether or not to use the comma or not. As we can see in these examples, it depends on what you want to communicate, and it's that simple! No need for debate, to use or not to use...we use the serial comma (or Oxford Comma) when we want to make it clear that there are 3 separate entities.
Let's take another look at the difference between using the serial comma (or the Oxford Comma) and not using it:
- I like eating quesadillas, rice, and beans. (WITH COMMA)
- I like eating quesadillas, rice and beans. (WITHOUT COMMA)
One more example...imagine you are a painter!
- For my next painting, it will be orange, red and blue. (WITHOUT COMMA)
- For my next painting, it will be orange, red, and blue. (WITH COMMA)
What do you imagine? The first sentence is orange with a mix of red and blue...so maybe there's some purple there... For the second sentence you might imagine the colors separated: orange, red, blue.
Finally I will leave you with this video that my colleague sent me, which is much more entertaining than reading my post :/ !!
I hope you enjoy it.