The Oxford Comma: Extra Appendege or Necessary Evil?

For my senior year of high school I somehow talked my way into an English Lit class.  Not an Honors class, but close.  My counselor, during our only conversation ever, tried to discourage me.  I had great English grades, but I was dismal at Math.  I insisted I could do it.  She shrugged.

The teacher of this class was considered an impossible taskmaster, avoided by all except her star pupils.  She warned me it was a difficult class, and that she tolerated no slacking.  I stood my ground.  Unlike my classmates, I Loved the Chaucer and Shakespeare they forced on kids, and I wanted MORE!

I kept up, mostly ‘B’s, and she gave me a grudging amount of respect by the end of the school year.  I never was a star, but I learned a lot.

This is the educator who taught me about the ‘Oxford comma’, although she never called it that.  They were cheats.  Only showing up in sloppy work.  Comma OR ‘and’, never both!  In the world of the ‘meme’, if you need one to keep Stalin and JFK from being strippers, you seriously need to think about re-structuring your sentence.

The funny thing about the internet, and Facebook in particular, is how strongly people react to the smallest things.  Like the comma, or the absence of one.  Yes, I hate it when a grammatical or spelling mistake yanks me out of a good story or joke, but I miss lots of them, until I read the comments.  I don’t think I have ever pointed one out.  I’ve got shit to do!

Just this week I hit ‘enter’ too fast and made the dreaded to/too mistake.  It happens.

In my writing, I’ve caught myself beginning to use an Oxford comma.  Sometimes for lack of interest in restructuring the sentence, other times it just looked ‘right’.  “It’s ok, its an accepted form,” I tell myself.

But I still have that teacher looking over a shoulder, giving me the disapproving look.  It’s a burden, but a small one compared to how much she taught me.

Thank you teachers, everywhere, who give kids a REAL chance to learn.

Word count on Beta Draft to date; 76,787  Averaging 2,893 words per day.  Well above my goal of 2,000, so I am pretty pleased, assuming my dismal math skills aren’t fooling me.


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