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.
I 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.