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A surprise engagement

A strong case for the Oxford comma


"Top stories: World leaders at Mandela tribute, Obama-Castro handshake and same-sex marriage date set..."

Sky News reportedly sent out this alert to its followers Tuesday. I knew the Obama-Castro handshake was a big deal and all, but a wedding date, too? Those guys hardly know each other! 

Perhaps Sky News was not trying to imply that President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shook hands in addition to setting a date for their same-sex marriage. Perhaps Sky News was avoiding the Oxford comma.

For those not familiar, the Oxford comma refers to a comma between the final two items in a list, such as "I visited my mother, brother, and aunt." 

That comma after "brother" is an Oxford comma. And to many grammarians, it is a no-no. But as the potential Obama-Castro nuptials demonstrate, excluding the Oxford comma can sometimes get writers into trouble. 

This cartoon, which is in heavy circulation on social media, proves the point well:

Let the Obama-Castro wedding and stripper Stalin be a warning all of us writers. Sometimes, an Oxford comma just makes sense.

(H/T Slate)