Editing Basics

Oxford comma!

You are either for it, against it, or don’t care about it—the serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma.

I’m of the belief that you should use it, and you should always use it.

Be consistent. While it is acceptable to forego the serial comma in simple sentences (especially to save type space) where there is no confusion if it is left out…

Three ice cream flavors are strawberry, vanilla and chocolate. 

I still use it. To me, if you’re going to have a rule, follow it and don’t be willy-nilly.

Three ice cream flavors are strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate. 


Be clear. If a client can not clearly explain to me why they have left a comma out of a listing sentence, I will insist on its use.

Three ice cream flavors are strawberry with hazelnut, vanilla and chocolate.

The three flavors are clearly shown with the serial comma.

Three ice cream flavors are strawberry with hazelnut, vanilla, and chocolate

          (1: strawberry with hazelnut, 2: vanilla, 3: chocolate = three flavors!)


Be confident. Without the serial comma, listing things can become confusing. What goes together? What should be separated?

Sheila loves the beach beach balls and Dick.

WHAT?!?! Balls and stuff all over the place.

Sheila loves the beach, beach balls and Dick.

Not much better. Why does the beach stand alone, while balls and Dick are joined?

Sheila loves the beach, beach balls, and Dick.

Sheila  the beach beach balls , & Richard .

Yay! With the Oxford comma, it all makes sense!