What the ampersand is an Oxford comma?

Your guide to the history and nuance of four common, and not so common, punctuation marks.

Ragan Insider Content

On punctuation, Oscar Wilde once wrote: “All morning I worked on the proof of one of my poems, and I took out a comma; in the afternoon, I put it back.”

If, like Wilde, you have ever spent too much time pondering the comma—or the exclamation point, question mark and ampersand—then here is your guide.

Commas: Who cares about the Oxford kind?

Ah, the much maligned comma. “It is over-used, under-used and nearly always abused,” said a writer at Oblique Angles blog. Indeed, the comma is dangerous territory for writers. It’s punctuation that some editors prefer and speckle throughout your prose; others revile and remove it with little regard for your tastes.

So from where does it hail?

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