Monday, September 5, 2011

Music Monday: Vampire Weekend Oxford Comma

I think commas get the short end of the grammatical stick.

Case in point the Oxford Comma, also known as the serial comma, is a topic of much debate among writers, editors and the like. As a typist, I tend to skip the Oxford Comma in favor of less key strokes, but when I write long hand, I include it, it is more elegant.

I think it is useful when making a long list, let's face readers are not superheros and they do need a breath from time to time. Our story, its essence, its substance should leave them breathless, not our grammatical choices or omissions.

I had to laugh the other night as L's teacher spoke to us at the open house. The school distract has adopted a new word study program and one of its chief goals and to teach parts of speach and word usage.


L struggles with Mad Libs, because they teach writing and reading and spelling in an "organic" way that things like grammar and language arts gets lost somewhere. This makes me sad. As a poet I enjoy knowing the rules - SO I CAN BREAK THEM. Furthermore, I am a lousy editor, but I do know the rules. I spent much of my school years diagramming sentences in more than one language. I enjoyed that practice.

Never mind that as my junior year English teacher blabbered on about "comma splices" and and the "eternal run on" it went over me head, I do hear him still today. Knowing the rules has value. Language is often just a set of generally adhered to conventions. It changes over time, commas come and commas go.

Last night I was looking at the old typesets in a vintage store and marveling, that used to be someone's job - to look at a text and painstakingly prepare a mirror image. Can you imagine? Now I often don't even bother with a paper draft, I just take it from my head to the screen. No editor, typesetter, copy editor, nothing.

On one hand that ups the intimacy, there are less filters. It also increases the chances for misplaced or omitted commas.

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