This week, Slate, one of the most popular online news magazines, went nuts over the possible elimination of the Oxford comma. The only problem? It wasn't the Oxford's style guide that had the change, but rather the university's PR firm. And the change was a few years old. Whoops.
The Oxford comma, otherwise known as the serial comma, is the comma that comes before the "and" in a list. Example: "Sally went to the store and got chicken breasts, noodles, broccoli, and soup to make a casserole." The Oxford comma is the comma after "broccoli".
The Oxford comma is used in some style guides and not in others. In general, PR writing is very different than book publishing and follows different style rules. Book publishing tends to follow the rules of the Chicago Manual of Style, which says that Oxford commas may or may not be used but must always be consistent. PR publishing, and newspapers and magazines for that matter, tend to follow the AP style guide, which dictates that Oxford commas are never used. If you want to see the Oxford Comma guide from Oxford, click here.
I do find it completely ridiculous that so many outlets reported this story as fact, when the Slate was so completely wrong. Basically, nobody did their homework. I can't say I haven't been wrong on this blog before, but at least I don't get paid to do this.