Court case opens up writer brawl over the Oxford comma

A missing comma in a Maine labor law cost dearly in a lawsuit. So should we all start using the serial comma? Slip on your brass knuckles and join the debate.

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Some of us in the Ragan Communications newsroom were growing anxious this week when we realized that we hadn’t run across a good online brawl over the Oxford comma in weeks.

So it was a relief when we noticed a blowup on the web and in the Twittersphere over the use—or absence—of the shrimp-shaped punctuation.

A court’s decision in a Maine labor dispute hinged on the absence of an Oxford comma,” Quartz reported, adding, “A Maine court ruling in a case about overtime pay and dairy delivery didn’t come down to trucks, milk, or money. Instead, it hinged on one missing comma.”

CNN echoed the victory for proponents (or defeat for opponents) of what is also known as the serial comma—oddly using a URL that classified the story in its “Health” section. Perhaps they meant mental health, given the anxiety the comma, or its absence, induces.

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