If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:3:43

Video transcript

hey grammarians hey Paige hi David so we're going to talk today about the Oxford comma which is just another word for another name for the serial comma which is normally when you have a list of things you punctuate them with a comma after each item so for example in this in this sentence I'd like to thank my parents comma Mahatma Gandhi comma and my pet hamster or in this example his favorite artists are Elvis comma a tiny Norwegian harpist comma and Frida Kahlo now this is a pretty big controversy in English is where to put this comma some style guides for example the AP style guide recommends that you don't include this last comma the style guide that Khan Academy uses the Chicago Manual of style does recommend it ultimately this is less about grammar and more about style less about cents and more about taste because you could make I think a pretty convincing argument against each one like whether to use the Oxford comma or whether to not use the Oxford comma Page could you take me through the possible ambiguity in this first sentence sure so this sentence without the Oxford comma can kind of look like you're saying that your parents are Mahatma Gandhi and your pet hamster which is pretty crazy right and the second one is is a sort of sentence that could be used to make the argument against the Oxford comma so his favorite artists are Elvis a tiny Norwegian harpist and Frida Kahlo and it could be argue that you're saying that Elvis the rock-and-roll progenitor hip swivel guy it was a tiny Norwegian harpist which is not true both of these things are kind of examples of assumed a position that we're using we're using Mahatma Gandhi and my pet hamster to explain or clarify parents or that we're using a tiny Norwegian harpist to explain or clarify Elvis and this is not the case you know I think you have to choose which kind of confusion is more important for you to avoid frankly the way to fix these sentences is to put the uncertain thing elsewhere in the sentence so probably last like I'd like to thank Mahatma Gandhi my pet hamster and my parents you know and there's no there's no confusion no matter where you put the comma there or his favorite artists are Elvis Frida Kahlo and a tiny Norwegian harpist yeah that does a good job of avoiding that confusion you know a good a good craftsman never blames their tools it's all I got to say about that so Paige and I are here to report we're not here to make law you know we're trying to tell you about the language as it is and the way people use it and what we do at Khan Academy is we do we use the Oxford comma so parents comma Mahatma Gandhi comma and my pet hamster or Elvis comma a tiny norwegian harpist comma and Frida Kahlo yeah you have to find a style guide and stick with it and sometimes you know that depends on if you're writing for a newspaper that uses a particular style guide or if your English teacher has a particular style guide that they want you to abide by that's what you should follow exactly different people will tell you different things the key is to be consistent that's the Oxford comma that's the the debate over it and it's really all about a false sense of these being positives so keep a wary eye out that the Oxford comma you can learn anything David out page out