7 in 10 Poynter readers are pro-Oxford comma

About 7 in 10 Poynter readers agree with Roy Peter Clark that AP should change its style and require a comma before the "and" in a series such as "Seth, Andrew, Kristen, Sam and Ben."

Clark's defense of the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma) fired up journalists on both sides:

At 3:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, we had received 2,531 responses to the unscientific poll we posted Monday afternoon. Of those, 1,793, or 71 percent, were pro-Oxford comma:


"In this day and age, I think that's a persuasive majority," Clark said via phone, pointing out that it's a bigger pro-comma majority than FiveThirtyEight saw in its poll of Americans.

"There's enough energy in this argument to carry it forward," Clark said. "I'd love to see ACES pick it up, maybe even organize something at one of their meetings around it."

To those editors and reporters who argue AP's no-comma rule is too ingrained in their brains to change: "If we can't change our behavior in the use of a comma, it doesn't hold out much hope for us to deal with the much more tumultuous changes presented to us in the digital age."

But speaking of the digital age, there's one place Clark forgives the serial comma's omission: on Twitter, where the character limit necessitates grammatical compromises. Otherwise, he says, “I can think of other much more useful ways to omit needless words and save space and ink and money than to pick on that poor comma."

  • Sam Kirkland

    Sam Kirkland is Poynter's digital media fellow, focusing on mobile and social media trends. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as a digital editor, where he helped launch digital magazines and ebooks in addition to other web duties.


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