The Oxford comma

For my fiction, I tend to not use the Oxford comma (aka the serial comma). When I'm making a list, I usually leave it off.
For breakfast, I ate a bowl of cereal, a banana and toast.
Even when the sentence gets complicated, I leave it out.
For breakfast on the veranda this morning, I ate a bowl of that hideous cereal (the sawdust kind which promotes the health of one's bowels), an overripe banana and the still-beating heart of my rival for Miss Jennie-Mae's affections.
According to Wikipedia(1), the Oxford comma is commonly used in the U.S. for non-technical writing that conforms to the Chicago Manual of Style. However, for journalistic writing (conforming to the A.P.), it's left out.

Given that opinions vary on it, I defer to the publisher's preference. If they specify, I follow the formatting instructions. If they don't specify for the Oxford comma, but say "use A.P. style", I don't use it. If they say "use CMOS", I use it. When editing a long document where no clear instructions are given, I just want it to be consistent.

Use it or don't use it, but inconsistency of usage is like a bad haircut. It says nothing about your fundamental qualities, but it DOES say that you lack the ability to pay attention to details.

1. I know, I know. Wikipedia, the Internet, reliability, blah blah blah.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. I'm not entirely consistant. For the most part I don't use it. Occasionally, it makes for easier reading. I'm conflicted, what can I say?

  2. I like your style (whether it's Chicago style or not is unimportant). The Oxford Comma is less popular here in Canada, although I started using it when a teacher of mine marked wrong all sentences without it. Now I find I use it more often than not.

  3. I always use it, but I agree that consistency and clarity are the most important. :)

  4. I use it, simply because I always have. I'm stubborn that way...

  5. I don't always use it, but I do when I want that extra...pause in the flow.

    And possibly just to be contrarian, given it is not usually employed on the eastern side of the Atlantic, whence I hail.


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