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Guys, it’s been more than a year.

I know it’s hard; I know each person’s grief must follow its own path.

But please, PLEASE, can we finally let go of the Oxford comma?

Since the University of Oxford turned its back on its namesake in late June 2011, people with no interest in punctuation, proper grammar or even words have rallied to the cause of the Oxford comma. In a culture that loves nothing more than an underdog, a movement grew. Facebook friends declared that they would always “like, use, and advocate the usage” of the little guy. Pages sprang up, lines were drawn and small-house t-shirt makers raked in cash. Not since Pluto was downgraded has a simple, fact-based decision made such a social media ruckus.

I get it. We all needed time. But now, it’s time to move on.

I’ll admit, I am a comma freak. Every editor has their own style and strengths, and I can smell a bad comma from a mile away.

Oxford CommaI could go into the pros and cons of using the Oxford comma. (Let me state, for the record, that I do see their usefulness in complex or confusing sentences.) But it’s exhausting, and other people all over the Internet have made better cases. Instead, I’ll say that the arguments are irrelevant for our purposes as inbound marketers.

Almost every reputable magazine, newspaper and website you’ve ever read has been deleting the little guy for years. AP style has had it banned since before I got into journalism, and – irony alert – British English has long skipped it in standard usage. True, the little guy has found a refuge in creative writing, but when it comes to professionals who make a living informing the public, Oxford commas are nowhere to be found.

And yet I see them all over marketing writing online. They sneak into product descriptions and onto homepages. Blog posts are rife with them. Wikipedia, both the gold standard of the Internet and the bane of journalists everywhere, goes both ways.

If we want the content we produce to be seen as authoritative and useful, good information is only the first step. The most useful content in the world is wasted if readers can’t put their trust in us.

As Google continues to make user experience the guiding star for internet marketing, we can’t afford to overlook the details. Wading through a world of spam, we have to remove every barrier, every excuse to write us off.

Right down to the last comma.

 

Rebekah Meyer

Rebekah Meyer

Search Media Editor at digitalrelevance
Rebekah Meyer is a Search Media Editor at digitalrelevance. She is not a fan of the Oxford comma.
Rebekah Meyer
Rebekah Meyer

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Blogging Tips, Content | 8 Comments

8 thoughts on “Can We Be Done With The Oxford Comma Now?

  1. Not to disregard your entire point, but it’s a little misleading to just say that the University of Oxford did away with the Oxford comma. Though entirely true, it ignores the fact (that many will miss) that the University of Oxford is *not* the same as the University of Oxford Press, which still very much uses the serial comma: see http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/the-oxford-comma-is-not-dead_b33436 and http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/06/oxford-comma/ for more on their take on it. I’m personally a fan, but I also just wanted to share “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would have said.

    • Great distinction! The two arms are very different, but I think the overall point still stands: if we as content creators want to be seen as authoritative, we have to hold ourselves to those same standards.

      You are in good company, though. I’ve never seen such love for grammar as I’ve seen for the Oxford comma. Thanks for responding!

  2. The Oxford comma is the difference between “We invited the strippers, Jeremy Dearringer, and Kevin Bailey” (3 parties attending) and “We invited the strippers, Jeremy Dearringer and Kevin Bailey.” (2 parties attending and both are strippers). Strip on boys…

    • AMEN! Thank you. I am a fan of the serial comma when it’s necessary to eliminate confusion. I’m more annoyed by people forsaking the em dash (in favor of a hyphen) or the misuse of the ellipses mark. Everyone thinks they’re a writer, and very few people truly ever were legitimate, working copy editors.

  3. Rebekah,
    What does AP Style say about using “their” in place of the singular “his” or “her”? As in your sentence, for example, “Every editor has their own style and strengths, and I can smell a bad comma from a mile away.”

  4. I don’t think we need to let go of the Oxford comma, I think we just need to stop caring about it so much. We use written language to communicate, and Oxford comma or not, you are communicating the same thing to the 99.9% of readers who won’t notice. I don’t know many people that care about this issue that aren’t writers.

    Consumers don’t write off an advertisement because it uses an Oxford comma – they write off advertisements that are annoying, unnecessarily imposing or not relevant.

    Paying attention to the details is fine, but there are much more important details than where a comment is placed. There are a hundred better details to focus your attention on when writing an ad or creating a landing page.

    Cool.

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