Review Breaks Tradition with Oxford Comma

Sami Mericle, Opinions Editor

To the Editors:

While I was impressed by the reporting in the semester’s first issue of the Review, I was jolted by the use of the Oxford comma, a stylistic change that has evidently been implemented since I left staff at the end of last year.

I consider myself a dedicated fan of the Oxford comma in most situations. It provides rhythm, clarity, and fairness to lists. But this change in the style guide is objectionable for two reasons:

First, it breaks with years of Review tradition. The paper has a continual problem with a short institutional memory, which is inevitable for a student newspaper with a transient staff. But should the staff toss aside old conventions at the whim of each new production editor? While staff members may only serve for a few years, many Oberlin residents, faculty, and alumni have been reading the paper for decades. The Review staff owes these faithful readers consistency.

Second, using the Oxford comma lowers the prestige of the Review by diverging from other major newspapers. The Associated Press Stylebook, the accepted rule book for the newspaper industry, mandates the use of the Oxford comma. Yes, the Review’s style guide has often proved more progressive than the AP’s. The staff approved of the singular “they” long before the AP sanctioned it, for instance. But if the Review staff casts aside the AP’s expertise willy-nilly, it will lose the respect bestowed upon serious publications.

I’ll admit, part of my displeasure may stem from bitterness; for years, I had to endure a pang of anguish every time I deleted a sweet little Oxford comma from a draft. I had hoped this suffering would bond generations of Review staff. Alas, I suppose we’ll have to gripe about the heat in the dungeonous office instead.

To those comma devotees currently sputtering with indignation and girding yourself with syntactical examples involving strippers and politicians: I understand your complaint. But we must set aside personal preference for the overall well-being of the paper.

Sami Mericle
OC ’17