An Oxford Comma Changed A Court Case About Overtime Pay

How well do you know how to use the humble comma? Did you know there’s is more than one kind? Have you ever heard of the Oxford comma?

That’s the comma used in sentences to separate the penultimate and final items in a written list. For instance, Jody, David, and Rebekah. If you put a comma between David and the word and, it’s clear you intend to clearly say that Jody, David, and Rebekah are three distinct individuals or items on the list. But if you remove the Oxford comma, it looks like David and Rebekah are now together – which would be weird.

How important is that?

Well, believe it or not, a union sued a packing company over that very thing – claiming that because one line failed to contain an Oxford comma, a state law in Maine was ambiguous, and delivery drivers were entitled to overtime pay. The union won.

More from Jody Dean
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