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Comma again?

With thanks to Grammar Girl, I pass along this little graphic that distills to simplicity the ivory tower war that has been raging for decades over that little curlicue that allows us to pause between thoughts and lists, the comma. Specifically we are talking about whether or not it is correct to use what has become known as the Oxford Comma—the one in question under the heading below, after the word "defended." Does it belong, or should it be tossed on the slag heap of discarded and unloved punctuation?

Possibly due to a stint in an English grammar school in the '60's, or to a mother who feigned an English accent whenever she was nervous, I was taught to omit it. I didn't even know until recently there was any debate about it; anyone who tossed the extraneous mark into a sentence was not only wasting a keystroke but possibly inciting to riot in as many as three or four post-graduate composition aeries around the globe. Read on and you will see, as I did, that there are occasions where the little curly devil's presence is appropriate and appreciated.

(Apologies to Billy Tucker for the black eye I gave him in 5th grade. Billy, please pass along a current address and I will remit the $2.00, with interest.)


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