Thursday, July 8, 2010

The O.C.

By Reece Hirsch

I'm really honored to be joining this talented and twisted bunch of authors this week as a guest blogger. My debut legal thriller THE INSIDER was published by Berkley Books in May (

What's your grammar pet peeve?

As Vampire Weekend so eloquently put it, “Who gives a f**k about an Oxford comma?” I couldn’t agree more.

I worked in journalism for several years as an editor before going to law school. Whether I'm editing a feature article or a legal memo, the first thing I do is fix the commas. It’s usually the fastest way to make any piece of writing at least marginally better.

For the uninitiated, the Oxford or serial comma is the one that is often placed in a series before an “and” or an “or”. And, in my opinion, it has no business being there. I mean, a grammatical conjunction like “and” works perfectly well to link the last and next-to-last items in a series. Am I right on this, people?

And one of the functions of a comma is to denote a pause in the rhythm of the sentence, a moment to take a breath, a caesura. No one takes a breath before “and.”

There are competing orthodoxies regarding the use of the Oxford comma. The Chicago Manual of Style, the most popular general American writing stylebook, endorses the O.C. The Associated Press Stylebook, the journalist's Bible, disfavors the O.C. That’s a large part of the problem. Both sides of the O.C. controversy believe that they’re correct, and have credible support for their position.

This is my plea to bring an end to this sectarian violence pitting grammarian against grammarian and abolish the O.C. I know I’m right on this. The A.P. Stylebook says so.


Jen Forbus said...

Ha! Good one, Reece! And ironically, my word verification is "comona." I've done without the OC for some time, but when I changed jobs, the style guide here demands it. I thought it had pretty much worked its way out of existance until I came here. Oh well. The debate continues!

Mary said...

In the criminal mind and MS kill the OC!

Reece said...

Jen and Mary -- Thanks for your support. Someday I know we will prevail! I would have responded sooner, but I was on a plane to NYC for Thrillerfest.

Joshua Corin said...

Good to have you here, Reece (and a pleasure to meet you!)