What the ampersand is an Oxford comma?

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

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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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