To go with the error theme…

To go with the error theme…

Because a blog called ‘unexpectedly quit’ should have a ‘quit unexpectedly’ graphic.

Because a blog called ‘unexpectedly quit’ should have a ‘quit unexpectedly’ graphic.

Commas of doom.

I almost called this blog ‘ihateoxfordcommas’, but that’s a bit too long. Therefore, ‘unexpectedlyquit’, after everyone’s favourite Mac error message.

But I really do hate Oxford commas. (Or serial commas, or Harvard commas, or series commas, or whatever you want to call them. I just call them Commas o’ Doom.) I find them extremely pointless, actually; there’s no need for them in simple lists like ‘eggs, sausage and bacon’. There’s already an ‘and’ in the sentence, so why say ‘eggs, sausage, and bacon’? The comma just seems to float there, adding nothing to the meaning of the sentence, and interrupting the natural flow of the list. You’re reading this sentence, and then suddenly—COMMA OF DOOM interrupts your flow. I’m reading a LIST. I don’t think that comma before ‘and’ is part of the list! It’s not separating anything, because the conjunction is already doing the work.

I come across this comma constantly, both online and off, and wince whenever I see it. It tends to crop up on American- and Canadian-run academic-ish sites, as well as trendy Mac application developers’ websites. (Yes, being a Trendy Developer™ requires Commas of Doom!) Being stuck in the United States currently, I see it all the fucking time offline, and it annoys me to no end. ‘Meals, movies, and WiFi’. ‘Apps, web development, and design’. Ick, ick, ick. Although, now that I think of it, I see it more on advertising on the Internet than not, because most physical signmakers can’t be arsed with the Comma of Doom and leave it out. (Good on them, I say; it’s really unnecessary.)

I debate about this all the time with my best friend, who adamantly insists on using Commas of Doom. He says it’s for ‘clarity’ and ‘aesthetics’—what’s so aesthetic about a comma hanging about where it’s not wanted?