In exciting news for nerds like me this week, it turns out the University of Oxford’s PR department has stopped using its own comma, the one that hangs around like an evolved creature’s vestigial tail. You know:
I like music, restaurants, and comedy.
vs. the sane approach:
I like music, restaurants and comedy.
Because I’m a journalist trained in AP Style, that little bugger makes me want to attack it with a red pen. I’m sure literary types will disagree with me on this one, but I feel serial commas usually just slow a sentence down.
Like most lovers of the English language, I have a really twisted relationship with grammar. I hate, as NPR critic Linda Holmes calls it, “Capitalization For Cutesy Point-Making,” and when people put apostrophe’s in weird place’s it makes me want to scream. However, I’m still sometimes unsure about the difference between if I was and if I were.
I’m pretty sure my “natural” knack for grammar and spelling actually comes from reading a lot during childhood. As I was sort of a shy kid, I really loved reading. That’s not to say this was a highbrow practice. In fact, I spent the summer between fifth and sixth grades devouring tacky V.C. Andrews novels.
This little book clarifies why these things are so confusing, and is also hilarious in a very British way:
Although some of the rules in it are different here on the other side of the pond, it’s still fascinating as it delves into some of the back story of our language. The most important thing I realized from reading it is that language is a fluid, changing thing. Perhaps my defense of the use of “his or her” is already becoming outdated. Maybe I shouldn’t judge People who Capitalize Random Things in their facebook Status Updates.
And in other, way-more-important news: I’m moving to Chicago.
Apparently things are really different there:
More to come.