I’m dedicating this post to Lorelei Logsdon, my dear editor, whose love of the Oxford comma made her send me the meme on the right. I came across it on The Passive Voice, whose newsletter includes all the latest in regards to publishing, but its origin was no other than CNN:
If you have ever doubted the importance of the humble Oxford comma, let this supremely persnickety Maine labor dispute set you straight.
A group of dairy drivers argued that they deserved overtime pay for certain tasks they had completed. The company said they did not. An appeals court sided with the drivers, saying that the guidelines themselves were made too ambiguous by, you guessed it, a lack of an Oxford comma.
This is what the law says about activities that do NOT merit overtime pay. Pay attention to the first sentence:
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
- Agricultural produce;
- Meat and fish product; and
- Perishable foods
That’s a lot of things! But if we’re getting picky, is packing for shipment its own activity, or does it only apply to the rest of that clause, ie the distribution of agricultural produce, et al?
See, all of this could be solved if there were an Oxford comma, clearly separating “packing for shipment” and “distribution” as separate things! According to court documents, the drivers distribute perishable food, but they don’t pack it.
Yes, this is the real argument they made. And they won.
“Specifically, if that [list of exemptions] used a serial comma to mark off the last of the activities that it lists, then the exemption would clearly encompass an activity that the drivers perform,” the circuit judge wrote… “For want of a comma, we have this case.”
I was just trying to explain to a colleague the importance of Oxford commas. Perfect example!
A timely post, then 😀
I loved this story! 😀
Same here 😀
Love the Oxford comma!
I’m starting to fancy it myself 😀
This is so funny. The court case and the Oxford comma controversy has certainly grabbed the attention of every writer and author I know. I’ve shared your post so that my other author friends can see the funny meme. Thanks for a great post.
Thank you so much for sharing 😀
Ahhh, the power of the humble Oxford comma…..(sigh), got a love the comma 🙂
You and my editor both 😀
Where do you find all this great stuff?
Aw, you! Thank you! That’s why I always share my sources, so you can dig out more fascinating news for yourself (or you can wait for me to do so and share 😀 )
Well done to those drivers, and thanks for the great example too.
Best wishes, Pete.
Well done to that lawyer, too. I’ll bet he’s quite the grammar Nazi 😀
Long live the Oxford comma!
Lol – you’re in cahoots with Lorelei, aren’t you 😀
Hahaha! I’ll never tell.
My “linguageek” friends and I all shared this news article on Facebook too. Three cheers for the Oxford comma! Remember, kids: commas clarify.
Three cheers for lingua geeks 😀
It’s the little things in life. ?
As my wife always says…
Badum dum tish
I just had to…
It’d be wrong to avoid the joke.