|📝 English Composition Writing FAQ
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The Oxford Comma: To Use or Not to Use in College Essays?
The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is a punctuation mark used before the coordinating conjunction in a list of three or more items. For example, in the sentence “I bought apples, oranges, and bananas,” the Oxford comma is the one after “oranges.” Despite its seemingly small role, the use of the Oxford comma has been a topic of debate among writers and editors for decades. Since it takes little effort to use it, you should always do so in college writing unless your professor instructs you otherwise, or the style manual you follow does not use the Oxford comma.
What is the Oxford comma?
The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is a comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before the conjunction “and” or “or.” For example, in the sentence “I need to buy milk, eggs, and bread,” the Oxford comma is the one after “eggs.”
The use of the Oxford comma has been a subject of debate among writers and editors. Some style guides, such as the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, do not require the use of the Oxford comma, while others, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, recommend its use. The decision to use or omit the Oxford comma ultimately depends on the writer’s or publisher’s preference.
Why is the Oxford comma important in college essays?
The use of the Oxford comma can affect the clarity and meaning of a sentence. Without the Oxford comma, a sentence can be ambiguous or misleading, as the last two items in a list may appear to be a single item. Here’s an example:
- “I would like to thank my parents, Oprah Winfrey and God.”
Without the Oxford comma, it is unclear whether Oprah Winfrey and God are the writer’s parents, or if they are being thanked separately. In this case, the use of the Oxford comma would clarify the intended meaning: “I would like to thank my parents, Oprah Winfrey, and God.”
Using the Oxford comma consistently throughout a college essay can also contribute to its overall professionalism and coherence.
How to use the Oxford comma in college essays
If you decide to use the Oxford comma in your college essay, make sure to use it consistently throughout the document. Here are some examples of correct usage:
- “The class will cover grammar, punctuation, and style.”
- “She enjoys reading, writing, and hiking.”
- “The team included John, Sarah, and Mark.”
On the other hand, if you choose not to use the Oxford comma, make sure to be consistent with that decision as well. Here are some examples of correct usage without the Oxford comma:
- “The class will cover grammar, punctuation and style.”
- “She enjoys reading, writing and hiking.”
- “The team included John, Sarah and Mark.”
The Oxford comma is a small but important aspect of punctuation that can affect the clarity and meaning of your college essay. Regardless of your decision to use or omit it, consistency is key to achieving a professional and well-written document.
|Written: 2002, 2022; Revised: 05-3-2023; Version: Beta 0.7