You might have read the story of the missing Oxford comma, which had changed the outcome of a court case in Portland, Maine. What readers (and also TV viewers) heard or saw, was the outcome of an appeal case between dairy drivers and their employer. But what has an Oxford comma to do with this labor case?
The Oxford (or serial) comma is the final comma in a list of things. For example: “Please purchase a gallon milk, two yoghurts, and a pound of butter.”
Grammarly.com states: “Use of the Oxford comma is stylistic, meaning that some style guides demand its use while others don’t. Unless you’re writing for a particular publication or drafting an essay for school, whether or not you use the Oxford comma is generally up to you. However, omitting it can sometimes cause some strange misunderstandings.”
What Has the Oxford Comma to Do With Winning Court Cases?
The comma drama has raised eyebrows—and not just in Maine. The National Public Radio commented: “The Oxford Comma: Great For Listing, Pontificating, And Winning Court Cases.
Oakhurst Dairy, the milk- and cream company based in Portland, Maine, likely never appreciated the serial comma — also known as an Oxford comma — so much as it did on Monday when the lack of that little-curved stroke cost the company an appeals court ruling that centered on overtime rules for drivers.”
Specifically, the ruling in favor of the Oakhurst delivery drivers came down to Maine state law, which dictates that the following activities are not subject to overtime protections: Read the whole story about the appeal case at the NPR article or at the Smithonian Magazine.
Unfortunately, the Case is Not Over:
With the district court ruling, the case can now be heard in a lower court. The lawyers will be laughing all the way to the bank… NPR wrote: “A reminder that every punctuation mark deserves a fair hearing, a glimpse into the glories of grammar.”
And the Smithonian Magazine writes: “You probably have a strong opinion one way or the other. It turns out a United States Court of Appeals has opinions about Oxford commas, too.”
The irony is that the court ruling came “despite the fact that Maine’s own legislative style guide discourages use of the serial comma…”
Read more at Buzzfeed:
15 Reasons Why You Should Use the Oxford Comma.