The Oxford Comma is one of our more divisive punctuation marks. You know the one: that comma before the 'and' in a list of more than two items. People are indeed passionate on both sides of the Oxford comma divide.
Take Megan for example, who is a fan:
Some feel the Oxford comma is superfluous, but as this tweet makes clear, it plays an important role in demarcating items in a list.
It also plays an important role in legal documents, as three Maine truck drivers discovered after prevailing in a lawsuit that hinged on the omission of an Oxford comma.
Last year, a group of three dairy truck drivers sued the Oakhurst Dairy for overtime pay. Usually, overtime is compensated with time-and-a-half, though according to Maine state law, there are some exceptions.
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
Did the law mean "Packing for shipment or distribution" or was it intended to be "...storing, packing for shipment, or distribution"?
A state judge found it to be confusing enough to find in the drivers' favor.
And turns out, Oakhurst Dairy just settled for $5 million.
The Oxford comma fans were cheering:
For every time I had to explain the Oxford comma to my PhD students, sometimes multiple times per student, I feel vindicated!— Prof. Ozev (@ProfOzev) February 10, 2018
Some were having a bit too much fun with it:
As a long-time Oxford comma fan, today I'm excited, happy, and a third thing.— ᴋᴇɴ ʙᴇᴇʀ (@kenbeer) February 10, 2018
I can’t decide if the judgement is cruel, arbitrary and capricious or fair, prudent, and wise.— Richard Hannigan (@RichGRFX) February 9, 2018
Maine has since updated its law to use semicolons in place of every comma in that list (and added one in where an Oxford comma would have gone) so this never happens again.
But in the meantime, we have gotten an important lesson: