What’s the Oxford comma and do I need to use it?

Ask the wise old owl

Wise Old Owl

I went to dinner with my parents, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Are your parents Mickey and Minnie Mouse, or did the mice have dinner with you and your parents?

People argue about whether it’s right to put a comma before you use “and”, but sometimes it helps to make the sentence read better.

I went to dinner with my parents, Mickey Mouse, and Minnie Mouse.

Of course, you could just change the order – I went to dinner with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and my parents.

Look at this sentence:

The crisp flavours on offer are ready salted, salt and vinegar, and cheese and onion.

Without the last comma, you’d have salt and vinegar and cheese and onion – which makes it harder to work out which things belong together.

Style guides don’t agree about the Oxford comma, which is this last comma before an and,but in some cases, it makes more sense to use it.

More articles in this series

If you want to read the rest of the articles in this series, go to the wise old owl’s main page.

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