Friday, September 4, 2009

A Serial Offense

At a party a few weekends ago, a friend came to me with a grammar question which I was, regrettably, unable to answer. Be assured that evening upon returning home, I plunged into my shelf of style guides to procure a correct answer.

Sigh. I love style guides.

They make me feel that all is right with the world, for there are rules for everything. My favorite is Strunk & White's, of course, because I was educated in the public school system in the United States where The Elements of Style is king. I do, however, see a few things in this handbook--rules that have been drilled into my head for years (remember where I was educated?)--which I now take exception to and declare, "You, sir, are unnecessary. You are redundant! You are not welcome here!"

The rule I feel most passionately about is the serial (Oxford) comma.

*insert disdainful eye roll*

I dislike the Oxford comma immensely in direct opposition to standard American English. I know sometimes, for clarity, the additional punctuation is needed but I generally omit the little buggers when possible. This is strange because I love commas and am constantly resisting the urge to sprinkle more and more into my writing until the paragraph is nothing but a list of words separated by commas. My second draft of a document is typically shorter than the rough draft because I've taken out the superfluous punctuation. (This does not apply to blogging where I, more often than not, post unrefined writing chock-full of redundancies and horrifying mistakes. Yeah, please do not go through my old posts looking to see where I've used a serial comma and then email me and be all like, "You are a liar!" Let's just not today, k?)

If you're like me, you subscribe to several writing-style blogs, read articles regarding grammar issues, read style guides in your spare time and would offer to have Martha Brockenbrough's babies if, you know, she wasn't a woman and perfectly capable of producing her own offspring thank you very much. And you're probably thinking, "We are so over this whole Oxford comma thing!"

But chances are you aren't like me and you actually have friends and are kind of normal. And all I can say to you is count your freakin' blessings.

1 comment:

Dale Kemp said...

I, being a post the first draft kind of person (then go back and edit later), love that this post was filled with commas. I love to use commas (and parentheses too).

Do you ever listen to Vampire Weekend?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_i1xk07o4g