Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Serial Comma, Oxford, AND Inheritance Law

I just read THE news...about the Oxford/Serial comma. I'm not going to lie, when I saw buzz about this on twitter and lm_net, my brain was still in an ISTE haze and I thought the what, who comma? I finally got around to reading an article on the topic, found here: . And the sky is a little clearer now. I consider myself a word nerd and evidently a grammar junkie as well. I thought I did rather well with commas throughout high school and college, but when I wrote my action research for my Master's degree, one professor made this particular comma stand out, loud and clear in my brain for the rest of my days with one, simple, logical story.

First, she told us that in the world, this comma was not a big deal, BUT in her class it was. And here's why.

A lawyer friend of hers explained that if there was, for example, a will and an inheritance, that comma could mean a world of difference. So, Sally, Joe, and Mary are now splitting a $1000 inheritance. With the commas placed PROPERLY, each person gets an equal amount of the inheritance. BUT, if Sally, Joe and Mary are now splitting the same amount, Sally would inherit $500 and Joe and Mary (because they are not delineated with a comma and so are considered one entity) would split the remaining $500 and get $250 each.

See how that works? I'll bet you never look at a comma the same way again.

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