Thursday, June 30, 2011

Give Me Back my Comma!

Oxford has decided that they are going to essentially do away with what is commonly referred to as the "Oxford Comma."  What on earth is the Oxford Comma, you ask?  I just learned today.  The Oxford Comma is when you use commas as follows: "I am going to eat bacon, eggs, and hashed browns for breakfast," rather than "I am going to eat bacon, eggs and hashed browns for breakfast."  Apparently, it is redundant or something to use the additional comma before the "and."

Although I had no idea there was an actual name for this particular use of commas, avoiding the second (or "serial") comma is something I learned back in high school.  Until, however, I took a journalism class in 9th grade, and my teacher told me that in journalism, the accepted style is typically to use the comma before the "and."  I have done that ever since, because not doing so jumbles the last two items in a way that does not look or sound natural when reading it to oneself, or aloud.  That rule aligned better when I heard it in my mind.  And I'm not alone!
The serial comma is one of the sanest punctuation usages in the written language. It gives each element of a series its own distinct place in it, instead of lumping the last two together in one hasty breath. Think about it -- when you bake, you gather up your eggs, butter, sugar, and flour; you don't treat sugar and flour as a pair. That would be crazy
Seriously.  So I hereby absolutely refuse to abide by this grammatical rule revocation.

Additionally, I would like to call out some other rather silly grammatical rules that I do not find to be useful or intuitive in any way:

  • Keeping punctuation within quotations.  For example, I want to tell you how my husband was sad about missing out on what the household refers to as "ballgame."  Oh, look, I just did it.  See how that period is inside of the quotes, even though the period has nothing to do with the word inside of the quotes, which, to me, renders the quote practically plagiarizing?  It should say "ballgame".  And I believe the Brits, who are clearly advanced in this area, do this properly.
  • Its vs. it's.  Obviously, the apostrophed "it's" should always be used for a conjunction of  "it is."  That's a given.  But say, for example, I want to discuss the new baseball stadium's concession offerings.  I would say something to the effect of, "Target Field's food is surprisingly tasty!"  I could also say "Target Field is cool, and its food is tasty!"  But since that sentence means exactly the same thing as "Target Field's food is tasty," (<--- pesky punctuation problem again!) shouldn't "its" be a possessive noun, like "Target Field" became a possessive noun when I was discussing its food?  That's right, it should be.  But alas, it is not, and I find this to be silly.  Its is replacing the proper noun, and should therefore be treated the same way as the noun it is replacing.
I make up words, I write in fragments, I am absolutely not a flawless user of any kind of punctuation, I make noises in the middle of my own writing (like "AAAAARGH!"), and I often like the rhythms of sentences more than their technicalities. Run-on sentences amuse me. I frequently give the impression that the American Parentheticals Council has me on retainer, or that I am encouraging a bidding war between Big Ellipses and Big Dashes to see which will become my official sponsor. ("Dashes: The Official 'And Another Thing' Punctuator Of Monkey See.") I write "email" without a hyphen, I am a big fan of the word "crazypants," and my plan is to master "who"/"whom" only on my deathbed, as my ironic dying gift to absolutely no one, since there will be no one left to hear me.
But I still care deeply about my commas, their revocation, and even their outright disrespect.  And I absolutely refuse to use more than three periods to form an ellipses, because any more than three, and you look like a whimsical, undecided 12-year-old.  No offense to 12-year-olds.  And what's with the sentences like this:
‎(816): He threw up in the campfire, the alcohol in his puke caught on fire. Im marrying this man
My eyes, my eyes!  I know, it's a text message, and many standard punctuation and grammatical rules fly by the wayside in text and many online interactions these days.  But this is a serious trend, and I've even caught myself doing it on occasion, simply because I see it so often that it's infiltrated the good and decent parts of my brain that understand this to be utterly wrong.  No period to end the sentence, a comma used so inappropriately my hair is starting to fall out, and I am not even going to get into the horrifying subject matter of the sentence.  And when you try to imagine the words being spoken aloud, using the punctuation appropriately to convey what punctuation marks are commonly understood to convey, it sounds nonsensical.  

Am I the only person who makes a solid effort to use standard punctuation and grammar in my text messages?  I feel a twinge of guilt when I'm hastily typing one out and I don't capitalize people's names, or use periods.  What is the world coming to?!