Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lamenting the Serial Comma

In a charming, if slightly misguided, bit of word scat today, David Haglund writes about the connection (or lack thereof) between the demise of the serial “Oxford” coma and the music industry for Slate’s Browbeat column. Writes Haglund:

Now, Then & Forever, the first album from Earth, Wind & Fire in eight years, is out today. Well adjusted music fans may wonder whether EWF’s famed horn section can still bring it or whether Philip Bailey can still hit the high notes, but here at Brow Beat we have a different question: What do pop musicians have against the Oxford comma?

Haglund points out that, with one not-so-notable exception, pop acts from Crosby, Stills & Nash to Earth, Wind & Fire and beyond have eschewed the use of a serial comma which, Haglund asserts, “is disregarded by publications that should know better, but agreed upon by right-thinking usage nerds everywhere.”

Speaking up now for the “publications who should know better,” we’re all doing it under very good advice: those of us (and there are many) who follow the Associated Press Stylebook when it comes to popular and consistent usage dropped the serial (AKA Oxford, AKA Harvard) comma years ago. Grammar geeks may cling, but for sheer readability and clarity, many experts agree that -- in this case, at least -- less is more.

You can see Haglund’s piece here.


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