A rant about serial (comma) killers.

Commas. I’m kind of in love with them. Not in a “write a horrifying mega sentence” kind of way, but in a “let’s make sure we don’t eat a kitty” kind of way.


Commas are intended to provide clarity and cadence to any piece of writing.


There’s a certain kind of comma that tends to get abused or neglected—the Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma.

Critics say the serial comma—placed before “and” in a series—is superfluous. I have to disagree. Maybe you’re like Vampire Weekend, and you find me pretentious for preferring the Oxford comma. You’re not alone.

In the advertising world, we adhere to Associated Press (AP) style, which rejects the use of the serial comma. Why, you may ask?

Back in the day, you paid by the character to print. In the ultimate act of capitalism, AP style gurus decided to pocket money over providing clarity, shelving the serial comma save for vague moments when the comma was deemed “absolutely necessary.” And even though the days of paying by character have long passed, we continue to observe the practice—instigating $10 million lawsuits, creating mass grammatical pandemonium and irritating copywriters like me all over the world.

Where is the justice?

Ah well. For now, I’m still on the clock and still writing in AP style. My Oxford-comma-observing self still moonlights from time to time, making the world a clearer place, a safer place. Maybe one day I’ll get to bring that true self into the light again.

Till that day—I’m about to enjoy a roast beef sandwich with cherry preserves, arugula and goat cheese. And you’ll never know if that arugula comes separate from the goat cheese or if it is infused throughout the cheese in barbaric little chunks, sure to get stuck in my teeth.

Katy Johnson