The Write Way

Do You Really Need That Comma?

Tip from the TrenchesHave you heard about the Oxford comma? Rarely has such a tiny thing caused such an uproar. This simple comma is at the center of academic debates, editorial discussions, and even the theme of a popular book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

So just what is the story with this seemingly harmless punctuation mark?

Good practice
The Oxford comma (aka the serial comma or Harvard comma) is simply a comma included before the second to last item in a list. Publications that strictly follow AP style omit this comma to save space; however, using the Oxford comma is widely accepted as good practice. The comma’s proponents argue that it makes writing easier to comprehend, especially in technical and scientific documents.

Can one little comma really make much of a difference? Take a look at these examples:

Get the scoop
If the distinction between these sentences is lost on you, it’s probably time to call in the experts. Hurley Write’s online module, Grammar 102, includes everything you need to avoid suffering from comma slippage:

The module can be purchased on its own or as an add-in to another module. (The Grammar 101 module is a perfect accompaniment.) You'll learn how the Oxford comma clarifies your writing and discover the proper use of colons and semicolons. In addition, we’ll help you with the ins and outs of basic grammar rules, from possessives and plurals to sentence fragments and run-ons. With our Grammar 102 module, you’ll be able to focus on the substance of your writing, not the rules.

Punctuate with confidence! Writing is a learned skill that more than pays for the effort you put into it. Contact Hurley Write toll-free at 877-24-WRITE (877-249-7483) or by email for more information about our writing training courses.

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