The Oxford Comma (aka the serial comma) has recently come into question when Oxford presented a branding style guide for Oxford University advising against using the Oxford comma. However, in an argument (seemingly with itself) Oxford published an official statement in favor of the Oxford comma in all cases (to clarify, the new rule was only for the P.R. Department and the University still stands behind the rule). The news has been surprising, confusing, and generally displeasing for most of the grammar police.

The Oxford Comma

In case you have forgotten what the Oxford comma is, this Salon article explains that:

The serial comma is one of the sanest punctuation usages in the written language. It gives each element of a series its own distinct place in it, instead of lumping the last two together in one hasty breath. Think about it — when you bake, you gather up your eggs, butter, sugar, and flour; you don’t treat sugar and flour as a pair. That would be crazy.

The internet has exploded with the controversy (sort of). Twitter user @blurryyellow argued “Are you people insane? The Oxford comma is what separates us from the animals.” and the image below became viral on Tumblr:

Even Stephen Colbert chimed in during his interview with Vampire Weekend quoting the Elements of Style and saying that the flag is “red, white, and blue. Not red, whiteandblue”.

The Double Space

Also in the world of puctuation, over on The Facebook a few of us have been having a spirited argument about a few of life’s most important things, namely double spacing after periods. Can we all just take a moment to recognize this issue and please stop? For some of us it is more than a pet peeve, it creates problems in website code that have to be fixed. So while you may be enjoying your afternoon I am finding and replacing double spaces with single spaces, which I am sure you can agree is not a vision of nirvana.

I agree with this Slate article that says “Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.” The practice was born as a necessity when we used typewriters but is now obsolete. Take notice of the well formulated arguments in the comments of this article such as “I like the way it looks.” or “I don’t have to change.” or “That’s what my typing teacher taught me.”. In comparison to the opinion of Good Design:

Using a single space means that you understand that technology has changed since the decades ago when you first used to type. A single space means you realize not everything your teachers taught you in high school still holds true. A single space means you have respect for the journalists and designers who are working hard to take those extra spaces out of the drafts you’re sending us.

The argument for continuing to use the double space has nothing to do with whether it is the right thing to do but that it is just a force of habit.

A Few Final Issues

I would like to include my frustration with ellipses. To clarify, an ellipses is always and only three dots and has a space on either side. Finally, there is the issue of the dash, both en dash and em dash. Take a few minutes to figure them out because if you use a dash to separate thoughts you are probably using the wrong one. Now if people would just stop saying “cut and paste” when they mean “copy and paste” I would really be thrilled.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisinplymouth/3777814347/)