Let’s change AP style for my sanity and the Oxford comma

We all have things we love. Things we hold near and dear to our hearts. Things we are willing to fight for. I will fight for the equal treatment of women. I will fight for Monsters, Inc. to be considered the greatest movie of all time. I will fight to uphold everyone’s first amendment rights. But above all, I will fight for the Oxford comma.

The Oxford comma is the last comma used in a series of three or more items, right before a conjunction. Using the Oxford comma will make your sentences consistent, clear, and free from confusion (yes, this was an example).

At the end of this article, if I’ve done my job correctly, you’ll want to spit on anyone who doesn’t use the Oxford comma.

I was recently informed that here at The Denisonian, we don’t use the Oxford comma (#exposed). Generally, using the Oxford comma is considered a stylistic choice. However, The Denisonian adheres to the rules of AP style, which don’t call for the use of the Oxford comma. I understand that using AP style is standard for most publications, and I’m not advocating for dropping AP style. I’m saying that AP style should be changed to require the Oxford comma.

Usually, I’m able to remain open-minded and understand or agree with opinions that contradict my own beliefs. However, I can’t bring myself to do this when I hear arguments against the Oxford comma. I cannot fathom how anyone could disagree with using it. There’s a plethora of examples I could use to demonstrate the importance of the Oxford comma, but here are my favorites.

You’re on Tinder, and someone’s bio says, “I love my job, hunting and fishing.” Are they saying that their job is to hunt and fish? Or are they listing three unrelated things that they love? You would obviously swipe left, out of fear of matching with someone who doesn’t use the Oxford comma.

You’re reading a book, and the first page says, “Dedicated to my parents, Tina Fey and God.” Without the Oxford comma, this sentence makes you very curious about the author’s family tree.

Or let’s say you’re picking up cookies from the store, and someone emails you a list of what they want: “M&M, Oreo, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies.” You’re baffled; did they mean peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chip cookies with peanut butter? This could be avoided if we all agree to use the Oxford comma.

You may be thinking, that these are examples of insignificant, small-scale cases of confusion. However, last weekend, the Oakhurst Dairy Company had to pay several million in damages to its workers due to a dispute in overtime wages. The cause of the dispute? The lack of an Oxford comma. On a list describing jobs that were exempt from overtime pay, Maine Legislature listed “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution.” According to the New York Times, it was unclear to several truck drivers whether the Legislature meant that packing for distribution was exempt from overtime pay, or if actual distribution of goods was exempt as well. The drivers sued for four years’ worth of overtime pay, and Oakhurst Dairy settled in court to the tune of $5 million.

Something this critical and consequential should not be considered optional. So please, use the Oxford comma. It’s not a stylistic choice; it’s a life choice.

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