The Curious Case of the Missing Comma

I bloody love stories like this, mainly because I’m one of those writers who tries to keep commas down to the bare minimum. Here’s an example of how a missing comma can end up costing you a couple of million dollars.

Before we start, let’s take a look at one of the more common uses of the comma: making lists.

On his travels, Doctor Francis Upworthy met a penitent drug dealer, a man who swallowed knives, his future wife Judith, a kick-boxing dwarf, and a pole-dancer.

The good doctor gets around, and he meets a lot of interesting people. But here’s the problem; the last comma in that list is often called the Oxford Comma, and just as often, is cited as being superfluous. In this instance, the and conjunction acts as the list comma, so adding another one before the last item in the list makes little sense. I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong about this; it’s an argument that’s way older than me. The point is that detractors of the Oxford Comma will take that sentence and put a big red line through that last comma, and they’ll  probably add a little literary venom to show just how wrong you are for using it.

But what happens if I remove the comma? Continue reading “The Curious Case of the Missing Comma”