Who says no one cares about punctuation anymore? When indie rock band Vampire Weekend made a recent appearance on "The Colbert Report," the host took the group to task for its song "Oxford Comma," which opens with, "Who gives a <bleep> about the Oxford comma?" Who does? Stephen Colbert, for one.
The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is the final comma in a series (e.g., "I'll have a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich"). And its perceived necessity has been subject to great debate among writers and editors ever since Strunk and White's highly influential 1918 book "The Elements of Style" (pro-Oxford comma) and the Associated Press Stylebook (anti-Oxford comma) first divided on the issue.
During the interview, Colbert pulled out a copy of "The Elements of Style" to demonstrate the Oxford comma's domination, citing the book as the source for grammar and punctuation. While the band conceded that, sometimes, the extra comma serves a purpose, it is increasingly going the way of the VCR. In fact, journalist Lynne Truss, author of "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" (this century's version of "The Elements of Style"), has gone as far as to state, "Nowadays... A passage peppered with commas — which in the past would have indicated painstaking and authoritative editorial attention — smacks simply of no backbone ... and out-of-date reference books."
Ouch. Take that, Colbert.
Point is, even in an era of truncated texts and tweets, punctuation and its use remain important to communications and readers' perception of copy. Does that mean the rules can't (and don't) change? Of course not. Yes, even punctuation must move with the times.
A moment of silence for the Oxford comma...
Kristen Mccarthy Thomas | Public Relations Specialist