We admit it: We’re fans of the Oxford comma.
Most of us, anyway. Some of us—especially those of us with journalism backgrounds—took some convincing.
But we hold clarity to be one of the cardinal virtues of copywriting. You should not have to read a sentence more than once to understand it. And that little bit of punctuation is all about making sure there’s no misunderstanding about what the writer is trying to say.
So why not use it? What’s the harm? In a way, using that serial comma is, at worst, akin to Pascal’s Wager: It eliminates risk.
We also believe that anti-comma sentiment has arisen because “Oxford” makes the comma seem patrician. Its detractors deride it as fussy, elitist, and unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our passion for the serial comma is rooted in a desire to communicate clearly with all people, to eliminate confusion, and to treat all items in a series as equal. The Oxford comma is, truly, the People’s Comma.
Ironically, this heroic bit of punctuation, so vital to clarity and comprehension, is itself greatly misunderstood. We believe in our hearts that it’s time to rectify this situation.
So we formed the Commanist Party: an organization dedicated to the preservation and proliferation of the People’s Comma across all media. And we’d love it if you’d join us.
Do it for your readers. Do it for posterity. But most of all, do it for yourself. It’s time for the pro-literates to stand up and be counted. All hail the People’s Comma! Just to be clear!
the Commanist Party
We are each imbued with the uniquely human capacity of constructing in our minds a limitless number of meaningful expressions. These expressions are both the instrument of thought, the means of formulating thoughts in our minds, and also a way of externalizing it to others. But our thoughts are only as good as the language we use to express them. Commas, question marks, periods: These are necessary foundations for building worlds, platforms, and movements. Without them, our words lose their meaning in contextless chaos.
We, the Commanist Party, believe that using punctuation is an act of care. The serial comma is the egalitarian standard-bearer holding groups equal, separating wheat and chaff, and creating clarity. Does insisting that thoughts are held to a standard mean we are wedded to a stodgy form of expression? No. Structure frees us to explore all the worlds we can imagine together. Let the language grow and flower as it will—just be clear, be clear, to whomever you’re trying to reach.
Poorly constructed writing will not, will never advance the human race. Those who neglect to use punctuation out of laziness are careless with the spark that can set nations alight. Language is the right of the people. Refusal to use the serial comma—the People’s comma—or any other punctuation is an assault on what makes us uniquely, beautifully human. We cannot, should not, will not stand for it any longer. Punctuation is important, just to be clear.