Oxford comma (also known as the serial comma, Harvard comma, or floating comma) is something that is used to improve the clarity of the texts. It is the third of five commas used in English grammar, which is preceded by coordinating conjunctions like ‘and’ or ‘or’ etc.
Many people have been in a situation when they have to choose between the Oxford comma and the serial/simple comma, so why Oxford comma is important? Here are the reasons are given below.
15 Benefits Of Oxford Comma In Writing
Oxford comma is important for writing, because it maintains clarity in your text, makes your writing more comprehensible, and also helps readers to avoid misreading the sentence. Oxford comma follows the second-to-last item in a list of three or more items.
Well, it has certain benefits which are explained below.
1. Oxford Comma Improves The Clarity Of Texts
The major benefit of the Oxford comma is that it makes texts more clear and less ambiguous. What do we mean by ambiguity? Well, if the text lacks an Oxford comma and there is a chance for two separate meanings of what was written, then it becomes an example of ambiguity.
I love my parents and William Shakespeare. This sentence implies that I love my parents but not William Shakespeare.
2. Oxford Comma Prevents Misreading Of Texts
This comma also prevents the misreading of texts. When there are two independent clauses followed by a list, the first clause should have Oxford comma to avoid misreading “We invited our parents, Alice and Bob to the party” where you can misinterpret that it is I who has invited both my parents and Alice and Bob to the party.
As ‘Alice and Bob’ is the last item on the list, it also makes sense to have an Oxford comma.
3. Oxford Comma Makes Texts More Concise
It helps writers be more concise by avoiding using additional conjunction between independent clauses. Moreover, there are instances where the removal of the Oxford comma may result in ambiguity as well as the result of breaking the rhythm of a sentence. For example:
“I can speak French and I am from Paris”- Here we cannot place Oxford comma before ‘and’ because it can be read… I can speak French, and I am from Paris. Which isn’t right! I can speak French and I am from Paris.
Here the sentence mentions two independent clauses that are separated by ‘and’ after which there is a list of individuals (French people). So, the Oxford comma should be added before the conjunction to make it more concise, clear, and less ambiguous.
4. Oxford Comma Helps Avoid Confusion
Confusion may arise when there are three or more items in the list, especially when it comes to the serial comma. For example: “I met Bill, Jack, and Ted at the station”- If you remove the Oxford comma here you can misinterpret it as if I have met these three people at the station.
Therefore, the Oxford comma should be inserted in the above sentence.
Reference Video – Grammar’s Great Divide: The Oxford Comma
5. Oxford Comma Helps Identify The Grammatical Structure Of Texts
There are instances where people do not use the Oxford comma and thus it becomes difficult to identify the grammatical structure of a text. For example: “I have three children, Sally, a girl, and Billy.”- In this sentence, it is hard to understand whether you have three children or there are two kids Sally and Billy.
I have three children: Sally, a girl, and Billy. Including an Oxford comma before the conjunction makes the sentence concise as well as clear.
6. Oxford Comma Helps Writers Be Consistent
Consistency is another benefit of the Oxford comma. You will agree that for literary purposes, every sentence must be written in the same style and tone so why should there be different approaches to commas? Therefore, this particular feature of the Oxford comma helps writers consistently write sentences.
7. Oxford Comma Can Help Avoid Misunderstanding
Not adding the Oxford comma can lead to a misunderstanding of texts. For example: “The judge ordered the defendant to be arrested, tried and convicted”– This sentence is grammatically correct except for one thing- Oxford comma before ‘and.
When there are two verbs in an independent clause, you should add an Oxford comma before the conjunction.
8. Oxford Comma Helps Avoid Ambiguity
Not using Oxford commas can lead to ambiguity in sentences. For example: “I went to the party with my brother Tom”– Here you cannot distinguish whether it was me who went to the party or my brother Tom.
So, it is better to remove the comma and rewrite the sentence as “I went to the party with my brother, Tom”
9. Oxford Comma Can Help Organize Information In Texts
The use of the Oxford comma helps in organizing information in a sentence. For example: “I went to the party with my brother, Tom”– Here we can easily distinguish that there was a party, and it was I who went to the party. Without the Oxford comma, it would have been difficult to distinguish.
10. Oxford Comma Can Help Avoid Confusion In Numbered Lists
When lists are numbered, it becomes imperative to use the Oxford comma because there is no room for confusion in numbers without it. For example: “The dog climbed five flights of stairs, licked the boy’s face, jumped through the window and stole the magazine”
Here if you do not include the Oxford comma before ‘and’, people may think that the dog licked the boy, jumped through the window, and then stole the magazine.
11. Oxford Comma Helps Avoid Incorrect And Unnecessary Punctuation
You can avoid incorrect and unnecessary punctuation by including the Oxford comma. For example: “The government’s supporters, soldiers of fortune, are not happy with the policy changes.”- Without the Oxford comma it would have been hard to distinguish whether the comma after ‘policy’ is necessary or not.
Putting Oxford comma before ‘and’ makes the sentence clear and correct.
12. Oxford Comma Can Save Time For Writers
It is essential to save time for writers by including Oxford commas. For example: “I went to the beach, bought a book, read it at home, enjoyed it very much”- If you do not include an Oxford comma before ‘and, it will make your sentence length.
13. Oxford Comma Can Save Time For Readers
Avoiding the Oxford comma can make the reader go back and identify whether you used or omitted the Oxford comma in a sentence, which will waste his/her precious time. For example: “I went to the beach, bought a book, read it at home, enjoyed it very much”
This sentence is lengthy, and it will waste your time if you have to find out whether or not the Oxford comma is used in place of conjunction.
14. Oxford Comma Can Help Writers Avoid Confusion In Information
Adding Oxford comma can help writers avoid confusion in the information conveyed through sentences. For example: “I went to the beach, bought a book, read it at home, enjoyed it very much”- Without the Oxford comma you will confuse what you did when.
This means whether you went to buy the book before going to the beach or after coming back from the beach.
15. Oxford Comma Can Help Writers Avoid Excessive Repetition
If you include the Oxford comma, you can avoid excessive repetition in the information conveyed through a sentence. For example: “I went to the beach, bought a book, read it at home”– If you will not include an Oxford comma before ‘and’ here, you will be repeating the same information about reading the book.
Importance Of Oxford Comma – Conclusion
In a nutshell, it can be said that the Oxford comma helps writers convey information with clarity and avoid confusion. Also, they help writers organize the information in a sentence correctly and avoid unnecessary punctuation.
So as a writer, you should include the Oxford comma as much as possible as it makes your sentence clear and concise; additionally, it also makes the sentence easy to understand for readers.
Hello, I am Aatka Azhar. I have done bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Writing articles is my passion through which I explore so many things. So, I am using my passion by working here and it will be the source of knowledge for the readers.