To accept or not to accept the beloved Oxford comma, that is the question of our time

Two grammar styles, both alike in smugness,

In fair Oxford, where the serial comma is named,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where educated blood makes civil hands unclean.

The Oxford comma, a punctuation piece that lies after the penultimate item in a list of three or more, has torn apart families in the same way families have been torn apart by young love gone awry and political affiliations during the Civil War, the 2016 election, and Family Game Night.

Much like the feuding Capulets and Montagues, pro- and anti-Oxford commatics face off in tense conflict. On the one side, there are E.B. White and William Strunk Jr. with The Elements of Style. The handbook and grammar guide champions the use of the serial comma, more commonly known as the Oxford comma. The Associated Press, however, snootily looks down upon the Oxford comma and its supposed redundancy.

Whether you were raised to defend the honor of the Oxford comma or not, ingrained grammar styles are not newly contentious issues. Rather than the real issue being the validity of a grammar style, instead the issue lies in the closely held beliefs of individuals. When people grow up learning a particular grammar provision a certain way, it can feel like a personal affront when someone seeks to disrespect it.

That being said, the superiority of the Oxford comma remains clear after a victory involving a Maine state court case.

A lawsuit of $10 million was filed by three of Oakhurst Dairy truck drivers in Maine alleging uncompensated overtime. The workers and plaintiffs of the case claimed that the lack of an Oxford comma translates into an exception to state law on overtime pay exceptions. Maine law states that a list of tasks that would not be counted towards overtime are: “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution” of perishable foods. They claimed these exceptions were undermined by the last two items on the list of actions. Not having an Oxford comma meant, as the plaintiffs argued, that it was one singular task, “packing for shipment or distribution,” not two distinct ones. Thus, the workers argued that because they merely distributed the boxes, not packed them, they deserved the overtime pay for the overtime they had accumulated over the course of over four years.

The court sided with the plaintiffs and the business world learned of the importance and might of the Oxford comma.

Even with a clear win for the Pro-Oxford commatics, hatred of the punctuation still lingers in the shadows among teachers and professionals who read the Associated Press Style book. Pro-Oxford Commatics must take to the streets and throw up their hands and bite their thumbs at their enemies, those who wish to selectively omit or add the Oxford Comma willy nilly.

I understand that it’s difficult to change your perspective on something so important but it’s necessary for society to progress towards a modern civilization.

I call upon thee, brethren, to stand up and fight for consistency in punctuation style. Defend thy honor and defend the Oxford comma.