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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

Grammar with the Head Copyeditor: Oxford comma rules, tips, and tricks


The oxford comma just saved Bobby Beacon’s life.

Hey everyone! It’s me again. This week, we’re going to take a look at oxford commas. This type of comma is that extra little one you add at right before the last item in a list. I don’t know why this particular comma has a special name, but who am I to question whoever it is that makes grammar rules?
Here at The Mass Media, we have this lovely little thing called a style guide that we use as a rulebook for all grammar, syntax, and style that makes up an article.  The job of a copyeditor is to go through and edit our articles to match that style guide. Even the writers are supposed to use this guide every time they write an article, whether it be for News, Opinions, Arts & Lifestyle, Sports, or Humor.
If you ask our lovely Editor-in-Chief Katrina, oxford commas should be use in every list, no matter the topic, length of the phrases, or the coordinating conjunction that is used (this is a big grammar term that classifies words like “and,” “or,” “but,” “nor,” and so on). But, if Katrina would just open up the binder that sits on her desk, she would see that, here at The Mass Media, we do not use Oxford commas.
How do you use an oxford comma, well I feel like I’ve already explained that to you all. It goes before that last coordinating conjunction. But none of you should be using one because, obviously, The Mass Media said you can’t.
I mean I’m not here to tell anyone what they can and cannot do, but I will tell you that no matter the time, place, or assignment, oxford commas should not exist in your writing.
Are you sitting in a coffee shop eating a bagel, drinking a latte, and writing your paper for that English class you obviously love? No oxford commas! Are you sitting in The Mass Media office working on that article that you are writing for this week’s edition, eating snacks, and talking to your fellow writers? I better not be seeing any oxford comas and I better be seeing some style guides open and utilized during your writing process!
To my fellow English buffs, I’m you 100 percent agree with me that oxford commas might as well just disappear from our writing, our grammar rules, and especially all of our style guides. I don’t understand why anyone would even want to use a comma at the end of a list anyway. It clearly doesn’t add any clarity to the sentence at all.
I mean, which one makes more sense? On Saturday, Katrina, Skylar, Georgia, and I bought seven cakes at Star Market, spent three hours at the Museum of Fine Arts, rode the Red Line from Alewife to Ashmont back and forth, and slept. (This next one has the oxford comma, wink wink). On Saturday, Katrina, Skylar, Georgia, and I bought seven cakes at Star Market, spent three hours at the Museum of Fine Arts, rode the Red Line from Alewife to Ashmont back and forth, and slept.
Now, clearly, that first sentence made way more sense without the commas.  There is a very clear difference between the two sentences. The first one is clear, concise, and has no sections that invite confusion. Meanwhile, the second one is muddled, sloppy, and so confusing that I don’t even know what it is saying. The Mass Media style guide is very obviously helping you all by getting rid of the oxford comma entirely.
Now, if any of you have any questions regarding oxford comma use, then I don’t know what to tell you. I will not be there to answer any questions and obviously Katrina has no clue what she’s talking about. Maybe come talk to our Managing Editor Skylar because she’ll have some answers for you. Oh, our copyeditors have answers for you too! Our trusty friend Google may be able to help you as well. But be careful, there’s some fake news about commas out there.

About the Contributor
Bridget McColgan, Head Copyeditor