A call to arms for punctuation
I marked National Punctuation Day last year and the year before, and again in anticipation of this year’s event. Domestic duties today have kept me away from the marching bands and the floats this time, but I want to point out something of grave importance beneath all the hoopla.
The Chicago Manual of Style, tweeting as @ChicagoManual, reminds us, “On today, National Punctuation Day, CMOS would like to remind everyone to celebrate the glory of the serial comma.”
The serial comma, sometimes called the Oxford comma, the final comma in a series, is both seemly and symmetrical. It marks a logical division and forestalls confusion. And for too long it has been neglected.
It has been scorned by newspapers from ancient times, for reasons no one recalls. Omitting it may have made Linotype operator’s job a fraction easier, or it may have saved some cheese-paring publisher a pennyworth of lead every quarter. But though there is no sound reason to omit it, and every reason to use it, the gnomes of the Associated Press Stylebook continue to shun it.
I have stood up for the semicolon, and I will not be silent as the serial comma languishes in disrepute.
Citizens! Are we not writers and editors? Do we not have independent judgment? Are we to remain in slavish subservience to the AP Stylebook? No! And I say again, no!. It is time we shook off our chains! To the Bastille! Down with tyranny! Up with the Oxford comma! To the barricades!