The Serial Comma, The Oxford Comma, and The Harvard Comma

You know, the comma before ‘and’ or ‘or’ in a list? It’s the Harvard Comma, and I use it! I was taught to use it, though I was aware that some did not, but I never knew why. Recently, a boss told me not to use it, and I can only assume he has had some training as a newspaperman, or, at least, learned his grammar from someone who was.

The Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, most authorities on American English and Canadian English, and some authorities on British English (for example, Oxford University Press, and Fowler’s Modern English Usage) recommend the use of the serial comma. Newspaper style guides (such as those published by The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Times newspaper in the United Kingdom, and the Canadian Press) recommend against it, possibly for economy of space.

The Serial Comma, The Oxford Comma, and The Harvard Comma

0 thoughts on “The Serial Comma, The Oxford Comma, and The Harvard Comma

  1. kris says:

    I was not taught to use it…but interestingly enough, my colleague with some training and experience as a journalist does use it! I find myself using it more and more, though it usually seems excessive.


  2. I was taught to use it as a kid, then told it was redundant in high school or college. I had a colleague later on who was a zealot for eliminating commas even where they were justified and pretty standard. It was a bit silly. In most cases, using or not using the Oxford comma is just a style choice.


  3. Love the Oxford comma… it’s a necessity. Even more of a necessity is using the British style of punctuation in conjunction with quotations: only place punctuation, such as commas and periods, inside of quotations when they are part of the quotation. Otherwise, place them outside.


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