TAYLOR: In defense of the Oxford comma

With apologies to Penelope Laurans, who would expect better.
1130_Madeleine Witt_Oxford Comma
Photo by Madeleine Witt.

Remove the mark and loosen stray semantics;

Drown clarity, flood sense! Your grammar’s antics

With oxford commas makes no sense — just style:

The hipster’s unclear, casual, cool smile

Of apathy. That final comma formed

A rug for wandering, slow feet, informed

An end, and cleared a space to think, to breathe —

And News, you pull it straight out from beneath

The bewildered reader: me. To understand

You, News, I need the comma’s curly hand,

Delineating meaning, vanquishing

My doubt. List items need distinguishing

Or else become appositives — and can

Sense really figure which is which? No! Man

Is but mortal; language fails; but grammar leaps

The gap between us, “poet” and reader, sweeps

The page clear. And — unhip as I may be

(and quite unhip: who else opines but me

anachronistically in defunct verse?),

I feel the comma makes the text converse —

Or orate, even, in a grander way

Than current fashion sighs, and deems ‘okay.’

So I say: I need the comma, need clarity,

Poise and commitment. Wait. Is clarity

Poise and commitment? Or is what I need

All three? See! What I really need (News, heed)

Is an oxford comma.

Alas, you’re too cool

To use the punctuation taught in school.

 

Michelle Taylor is a senior in Davenport College. Contact her at michelle.a.taylor@yale.edu.

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