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  • Writer's pictureBrian Markey

Your messaging is key/My case for the Oxford comma

I am an avid proponent of the Oxford comma. I can't understand any argument made against using it, because there is always the chance that a sentence could be misunderstood without it. But with an Oxford comma, there is no danger of getting the wrong message across.

Let's use this fun example from Ayesha Curry, wife of NBA superstar Stephen Curry. At one point in time, this was her Twitter Bio:

"Ayesha Curry, cookbook author, social media maven, mother and wife to NBA superstar Stephen Curry."

Now this isn't exactly a complete sentence, nor is it meant to be. But did you get the sense that Ayesha is in one too many relationships with Stephen? Maybe you read it correctly in your head, and you separated the words "mother and wife" with a pause.

But I didn't, because there is no Oxford comma. One little mark that changes the entire meaning of her bio, stating that she is a mother, and that she is also Stephen's wife.

Here is what it needs to look like, and I will not accept any other way.

"Ayesha Curry, cookbook author, social media maven, mother, and wife to NBA superstar Stephen Curry."

There we go. The entire meaning of the message is now correct, and all it took was adding one tiny little punctuation mark. I don't understand why people would argue against that!

There's a common meme going around that imagines what society would look like if (insert hypothetical problem) was fixed. Here is my take on it.

The point is, your messaging needs to be clear. You don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about your company or brand, and you certainly don't want people to be confused after they read something that your business has put out.

Imagine you visit a website that is cool, sleek, and very refined in terms of design. You navigate through the pages and it is aesthetically pleasing. But the messaging is inconsistent or confusing. Or even worse, THEY DON'T USE OXFORD COMMAS!

You leave the site unsure if the company is trustworthy, and have decided not to buy their product or service. Their messaging was not clear, and did not guide you toward deciding to purchase.

You don't want this to happen to you. When a consumer interacts with your copy, whether it is on a website, in a newspaper, on a sign, or via social media, they need to understand exactly why they should buy what you are selling.

They need to know if Ayesha is Stephen's wife or mother, because it is probably not both. Be clear, concise, and the consumer will trust you and be far more likely to give you their business.

And remember, OXFORD COMMAS LEAVE NO ROOM FOR MISUNDERSTANDING! So make sure you treat your messaging/copy the same way.

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