How to Avoid the Oxford Comma.

How to avoid the Oxford Comma. (With apologies to Tom Hanks.)

We get it, the Oxford comma is a useful way to make a sentence more clear. Written English has a few issues that make it different from spoken English. For example, when you say “Oxford comma” out loud you don’t capitalize any of it. We also don’t say the word “comma” much because it sounds like we are using “air quotes.” Talking about the Oxford comma sounds like I am pretentious and don’t know how to use a comma. It also sounds like I am talking about someone I am calling, “The Oxford.” Worse, I am not sure if capitalizing the word comma in the title is correct even though it is the noun. Sometimes I wonder if we should give up on English and go back to cuneiform.

The sentence, “I went out with my parents, Godzilla and Tom Hanks.” leaves the possibility that Godzilla and Tom Hanks are not my parents. If I wanted to say that with the same sentence I would need to put a comma after the name Godzilla. That would be the Oxford comma.

To avoid the confusion entirely, you need to write a bit better. Here is an example:

I went out with Godzilla, who is my mother, and my father who is Tom Hanks.

That is much more clear. It is still pretty bad. It is much better if you show it with words instead of just telling it. Here is an example of this:

My new girlfriend points up and screams, “It’s Godzilla!”

I tell her, “Relax, that’s my mother.”

“But isn’t your father Tom Hanks?”

I say, “Yes, true love knows no boundaries.”

My girlfriend says, “Then how, I mean how did–”

I say, “They haven’t said anything. I think they are scared that they might hurt my feelings. Just between you and me, I think I am adopted.”

She asks, “So Godzilla is a girl?”

I shrug. I don’t say anything since I try to respect my parents’ sense of privacy. My mother, Godzilla, prefers me to say “mother” and hates the term, “life partner.” I don’t want to upset Godzilla so I am not comfortable with going much further with this conversation.

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