Oxford Comma

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reelo

Hero
This
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist

Or when the lack of an Oxford Comma cost a dairy $5 million.

Famously, in 1872 Congress changed the Tariff Act from this exemption-
fruit plants, tropical and semi-tropical for the purpose of propagation or cultivation
To this one-
fruit, plants, tropical and semi-tropical for the purpose of propagation or cultivation

Now, that's not an Oxford comma issue, but the inadvertent comma (which meant that all fruit and plants were now exempt) cost taxpayers the equivalent of $40 million before it was fixed.

Punctuation- it's all fun and good to mock the pedants with your cool texting and emojis, until you realize punctuation can matter.
 

The panda eats shoots and leaves.
The panda eats, shoots, and leaves.

The thing that always bothered me about this example is Panda's can't shoot guns. So there is never going to be a person who reads that sentence (provided we are not talking about an anthropomorphic panda), and misreads A as B. Also that sentence without the Oxford comma is "The panda eats, shoots and leaves", so even if it is an anthropomorphic panda, there isn't much ambiguity in the sentence without the oxford comma. My feeling is if people want to use the oxford comma in every instance, they are free to do so. I think there is a better argument to be made to use it when it helps avoid ambiguity when context doesn't make the meaning clear (but I also have to admit, I like ambiguity in writing).
 


aco175

Legend
The thing that always bothered me about this example is Panda's can't shoot guns. So there is never going to be a person who reads that sentence (provided we are not talking about an anthropomorphic panda), and misreads A as B.
Maybe The Panda is the name of someone like a hitman. Like The Jackal.
 


Maybe The Panda is the name of someone like a hitman. Like The Jackal.

Also I would say you likely know from context, without the commas, if you are reading about a hit man, that he shoots a gun and leaves (unless his thing is he eats bamboo shoots and leaves)
 



Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The thing that always bothered me about this example is Panda's can't shoot guns. So there is never going to be a person who reads that sentence (provided we are not talking about an anthropomorphic panda), and misreads A as B. Also that sentence without the Oxford comma is "The panda eats, shoots and leaves", so even if it is an anthropomorphic panda, there isn't much ambiguity in the sentence without the oxford comma. My feeling is if people want to use the oxford comma in every instance, they are free to do so. I think there is a better argument to be made to use it when it helps avoid ambiguity when context doesn't make the meaning clear (but I also have to admit, I like ambiguity in writing).
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The thing that always bothered me about this example is Panda's can't shoot guns. So there is never going to be a person who reads that sentence (provided we are not talking about an anthropomorphic panda), and misreads A as B. Also that sentence without the Oxford comma is "The panda eats, shoots and leaves", so even if it is an anthropomorphic panda, there isn't much ambiguity in the sentence without the oxford comma. My feeling is if people want to use the oxford comma in every instance, they are free to do so. I think there is a better argument to be made to use it when it helps avoid ambiguity when context doesn't make the meaning clear (but I also have to admit, I like ambiguity in writing).
It's a silly example to make it more entertaining. Don't fixate on the panda. The principle applies to any similarly constructed sentence.

If it bothers you, replace "panda" with another word of your choice. The panda is irrelevant. It's just funny.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
It's a silly example to make it more entertaining. Don't fixate on the panda. The principle applies to any similarly constructed sentence.

If it bothers you, replace "panda" with another word of your choice. The panda is irrelevant. It's just funny.

"The vegan assassin..."
 



It's a silly example to make it more entertaining. Don't fixate on the panda. The principle applies to any similarly constructed sentence.

If it bothers you, replace "panda" with another word of your choice. The panda is irrelevant. It's just funny.

I understand but that was also just one of my points. My other addresses swapping out the panda with something that could plausibly shoot. I think this example still doesn't really serve as a good argument for always using the oxford comma: "The assassin eats, shoots and leaves" is still pretty clear, without an oxford comma. My point is just a bit on the moderate side of the debate: there isa good argument to be made to use it when ambiguity could be an issue (but I think in most cases, especially when the sentence is going to be in the context of a paragraph within an article, novel, etc, context usually makes it easy to see through any ambiguity lack of the comma might on first glance seem to create.

Also one thing I think worth noting in the oxford comma debate (and I have no dog in this fight myself, if my editor wants to use oxford commas, I go with it, if they don't I go with it, if they allow a blend of oxford commas and none, I go with it), sometimes the intensity of the pro-oxford comma side, almost makes it thrilling to avoid using them just to irritate that crowd a little bit.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I understand but that was also just one of my points. My other addresses swapping out the panda with something that could plausibly shoot. I think this example still doesn't really serve as a good argument for always using the oxford comma: "The assassin eats, shoots and leaves" is still pretty clear, without an oxford comma.
I mean, you can fixate on whatever you want to, of course, but you're being rather distracted from the actual debate by focusing on the decorations.
 

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