I do love an Oxford Comma

I regularly read a range of material written by students and Public Relations professionals, including CVs from those on the hunt for a job. Unfortunately, it often seems that the requirement for PR and marketing people to have basic written skills is seen as a bit old hat.

Social media is a major offender. We all make mistakes (even me!), but it would appear that standard errors, such as the “grocers’/grocer’s apostrophe”, once berated by our elders and betters, is now viewed as unimportant. Surely good punctuation and grammar is an essential element of communicating effectively?

To the untrained eye, the Oxford Comma looks like a grammar mistake. One of my favourite websites, Grammarly, sums it up beautifully:

“…whether or not you use the Oxford comma is generally up to you. However, omitting it can sometimes cause some strange misunderstandings.

I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.

Without the Oxford comma, the sentence above could be interpreted as stating that you love your parents, and your parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty. Here’s the same sentence with the Oxford comma

I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty.”

If you want to improve your basic writing skills, a great book that I’d recommend is John Foster’s ‘Writing Skills for Public Relations: Style and Technique for Mainstream and Social Media’. Or, if it’s just a case of becoming word blind at times, Dean Evans’s book – “Don’t Trust Your Spell Check: Pro Proofreading Tactics And Tests To Eliminate Embarrassing Writing Errors” – would also make for a good bedtime read!

Kristin Mateski also offers advice on the 10 Common Punctuation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them