If you read “Bob, a DJ and a clown” on a guest list, are three people coming to the party, or only one? That depends on whether you’re for or against the Oxford comma — perhaps the most hotly contested punctuation mark of all time. The “Oxford comma” is an optional comma before the word “and” at the end of a list. The following is an example of the use of an Oxford comma.
We sing songs, hymns, and choruses.
The question for those of us who write is when to use the Oxford comma. If you read back over these tomes, you will find that some days I am in the mood to use it and on other days I leave it out. Some editors send out style guidelines in which they articulate the use or non-use of the comma. I wrote and published Sunday School lessons for a decade for a company that was theologically and grammatically opposed to the Oxford comma.
You may need the Oxford comma for clarification.
This is probably an apocryphal book dedication, but it shows what happens when the Oxford comma is omitted.
This book is dedicated to my parents, Any Rand and God.
The omitted comma has given theological import to the sentence. Your eyes might fix it and your brain knows that Any Rand and God are not the parents of the author. From a grammatical point of view the sentence is correct, but the meaning is muddy or heretical depending on your perspective.
I want you to ponder this comma.
God is always trying to sneak that Oxford comma into the grammar of our souls. He sends little blessings and reminders of His love for us. He moves in small ways that allow our hearts to experience His grace. We want God to speak big, loud, and boldly. We want fireworks! We want certainty. The essence of faith is to believe where we can’t clearly see. Believe that in those small commas that drop into your soul God is working His plan in your life.
Finally, the comma makes you pause. We need those pauses in our lives. We need time to just sit and be.
I received a Christmas card the other day from a dear friend. The last line of her note encouraged me to “linger in His presence long enough to let God’s blessings happen.”
I think the Oxford comma has reminded me of God’s amazing grace in Jesus.
How is God punctuating your life?
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