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What is An Oxford Comma? – Tips, Rules, & Examples

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What is an Oxford comma? The Oxford comma is an optional comma written before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list. For example:

“Today I went to the zoo with my classmates, Tim and Kate.”

So, why did we put a comma between “Tim” and “and”? To help the readers to clarify that all three are separate entities and Tim and Kate are not his classmates. If they were your classmates, you could say “Today I went to the zoo with my classmates.”

When To Use Oxford Comma?

For students wondering when to use oxford comma, you should know that the oxford comma usage is optional. Although it is mostly seen in American English, it is not accessible in the UK, South Africa, or Australia.  

It’s mainly up to you to decide whether or not to use the oxford comma. However, the usage varies mostly on the style you are following to write. ‘And’ is a conjunction, so you should use the oxford comma before it to join two independent clauses.

Example: “On Tuesday we’ll see the Tower of London, and on Wednesday we’ll visit the Buckingham Palace.”

As you see, the sentence above has two independent clauses; the oxford comma placement is before the conjunction – ‘and.’

Importance of Oxford Comma

Why do you need the Oxford comma?  Regardless of the arguments over oxford comma rules, the main idea of the oxford comma is to write a clear and unambiguous sentence. Major writing style guides, including the American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago Manual of Style, and American Medical Association (AMA) use the oxford comma. APA style guide and University of Oxford style guide use the oxford comma to avert misinterpretation.

The use of oxford comma makes it easier to present your idea as clearly as possible. Let’s take the following instance as an example:

Incorrect: “Kate invited her two bosses, Lee and Brook.”

Correct: “Kate invited her two bosses, Lee, and Brook.”

Without the Oxford comma, it appears that Lee and Brook are Kate’s two bosses. But with the presence of the oxford comma, it appears that Kate invited her two bosses, Lee, and Brook.

Oxford Comma Examples

Are you wondering how does the oxford comma work? Take a look at the following Oxford Comma Examples:

Example 1: 

Without the Oxford comma: “I love my parents, Michael Jackson and Winnie the Pooh.”

The omission of the Oxford comma in the sentence interprets that you love your parents, and they are Michael Jackson and Winnie the Pooh.

Let’s try with the Oxford comma: “I love my parents, Michael Jackson, and Winnie the Pooh.”

You see the sentence now gives a clear idea about people and cartoon you love.

Example 2: 

Without the Oxford comma: “Nicky found herself in the forest with her ex-boyfriend, a lumberjack and a pet detective.”

With the Oxford comma: “Nicky found herself in the forest with her ex-boyfriend, a lumberjack, and a pet detective.”

A tiny comma makes the difference between an awkward hike with two people and a potential fun hike with four people. Punctuation helps to clarify what you want your readers to read.

Example 3:

Without the Oxford comma: “Peter drove with his girlfriend, a doctor and an engineer.”

With the Oxford comma: “Peter drove with his girlfriend, a doctor, and an engineer.”

If we go by the first sentence, we understand that Peter’s girlfriend is a doctor and an engineer at the same time. But when we add the Oxford comma, you get a new meaning of the sentence. It now means Peter drove with three different individuals – his girlfriend, a doctor, and an engineer.

In the above examples, the Oxford comma clarifies and removes ambiguity. Bookmark this list of oxford comma example in various sentences for future reference.

Still, Confused about the Use Of The Oxford Comma?

Still, confused about what is an oxford comma? Want to learn the use of the oxford comma from an expert? You are finally in the right spot.

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Hi, I am Mark, a Literature writer by profession. Fueled by a lifelong passion for Literature, story, and creative expression, I went on to get a PhD in creative writing. Over all these years, my passion has helped me manage a publication of my write ups in prominent websites and e-magazines. I have also been working part-time as a writing expert for for 5+ years now. It’s fun to guide students on academic write ups and bag those top grades like a pro. Apart from my professional life, I am a big-time foodie and travel enthusiast in my personal life. So, when I am not working, I am probably travelling places to try regional delicacies and sharing my experiences with people through my blog. 

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