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Oxford Comma Required by Law!!!!

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Retroactively, I feel vindicated.  I was a military public affairs (PA) officer.  All military writing uses the Oxford comma except for PA publications, such as installation newspapers, installation guides, and media releases.  Yes, PA uses the Associated Press rules.  The brass often gave my offices flak for “omitting” commas.

Edited by Ragamuffin_John
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13 hours ago, Ora said:

I recently read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves"  .... what a hoot!!


It's a wonderful little book. Since it was originally published in Great Britain, there are occasional "Britishisms" in the points made, and that's probably a plus for any of us in North America. Since we're interested in not being ambiguous (that's the point of the Oxford comma!), it's important to remember that we may have some audience who speak an English that 's only approximately the same as ours.

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  • 4 months later...

Being an American engineer the argument is pointless.


Take "I like Diet Coke, peanut butter and chocolate."


If peanut butter and chocolate are  single item called 'Thing', then you have : I like Diet Coke, Thing.  This, no one would think was proper English, since a comma is a dependent conjunction (it must be related to a proper one).   It is obvious that this sentence  must signify three things.


The additional comma required by Oxford was probably added during a time when they taxed by the quill stroke.  😜

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Being a Sr. Technical Writer for Big Blue, the argument is vital. Making lists explicit removes all confusion. And the court backs up our practice.




Part of the law exempts certain tasks from receiving overtime compensation. This is what the law's guidelines originally stated about exempted tasks:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

Without the Oxford comma, the line "packing for shipment or distribution," could be referring to packing and shipping as a single act, or as two separate tasks.

The drivers argued that it reads as a single act, and since they didn't actually do any packing, they shouldn't have been exempt from overtime pay.

"Specifically, if that

  1. used a serial comma to mark off the last of the activities that it lists, then the exemption would clearly encompass an activity that the drivers perform," the circuit judge wrote.



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Just now, lynnmosher said:

Yup. We've discussed this before. You may have missed it. Commas are those strange, little twists in the English language that, more often than not, irritate and frustrate everyone! LOL :D

They've really been to court over it??!!

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Thanks Johne for the welcome. I was not intending to restart the debate. I think not even a court ruling solves it legally until it reaches the SCOTUS, where they will consider my position  😜


I actually did read the link in the OP referencing that same case.

It was more of a way to say "hi" near our 4th of July with a tip of the hat to our British friends. 


When they gave secretaries Pagemaker, everyone thought they were graphic designers and we saw many Business cards laid out in 12pt Helvetica.


The same thing happened when the online publishing became so easy. Now everyone thinks that all opinions are equal, and if a spelling-grammar checker doesn't catch it, it will end up online.  I am far from being a pro wordsmith, but I appreciate those who are.



Edited by BobJ
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