A Win for the Oxford Comma: This Lawsuit Shows Why It’s So Important

Keep in mind completion of the opening line, where there is no comma prior to the “or.”.
Oakhurst Dairy argued its motorists did not get approved for overtime because they participate in circulation, and the spirit of the law meant to list ” packaging for shipment” and “distribution” as two different exempt activities.
However, the chauffeurs argued the letter of the law stated no such thing. Without that obvious Oxford comma, the law could be read to omit only packing — whether it was packing for shipment or packing for distribution. Circulation by itself, in this case, would not be exempt.
Without that comma, as the judge kept, this difference was not well-defined:.
The exemption would plainly include an activity that the motorists carry out if that exemption utilized a serial comma to mark off the last of the activities that it notes. And, in that event, the motorists would plainly fall within the exemption and thus outside the overtime laws protection. As it takes place, there is no serial comma to be discovered in the exemptions list of activities, thus leading to this disagreement over whether the chauffeurs fall within the exemption from the overtime law or not.
As an outcome, the court discovered in favor of the motorists, costing the dairy an estimated $10 million.
Comma rules: To comma, or not to comma?

Agricultural produce;.
Meat and fish product; and.
Perishable foods.

As a diehard Oxford comma follower, this ruling made my day.
While a number of the websites I compose for as a freelance blogger follow AP style (including this one), which is sans-serial comma, I still sneak one in when it seems required to avoid confusion. This case backs up that habit as more than simply an old-school tic I havent yet release.
While the argument may still rave on over whether Oxford commas are essential all the time, this ruling maintains the practice of using them when theyre essential to ward off ambiguity.
So, who care about the Oxford comma? The response, according to the courts, is formally: anybody whos interested in clarity.
Take that, AP design!
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Picture via Lamai Prasitsuwan/ Shutterstock.

While some composing design guides do not use the Oxford comma, supporters state its essential to avoid possible obscurity. In some cases, an extra comma matters.
While the typical person would know this isnt most likely to be the case, it illustrates how easily a missing out on comma can change the meaning of a sentence.
If that exemption used a serial comma to mark off the last of the activities that it lists, then the exemption would clearly encompass an activity that the drivers carry out. As it occurs, there is no serial comma to be found in the exemptions list of activities, therefore leading to this conflict over whether the drivers fall within the exemption from the overtime law or not.

Who cares about the Oxford comma?
The response traditionally has been grammar geeks, Strunk & & White and those who follow the infamous Chicago vs. AP writing design guide debate.
After this lawsuit a few years earlier, we included dairy motorist to the list.
Because an appellate court ruled in favor of Maine dairy chauffeurs in a labor conflict that hinged on the oft-debated piece of punctuation, thats.
For anyone whos ever wondered what all the hassle has to do with over Oxford commas, the circuit judges 2017 opinion says all of it: “For desire of a comma, we have this case.”
What is the Oxford comma or the serial comma?
For those in requirement of a grammar rules refresh, heres a quick summary of the Oxford comma.
In some cases called the serial comma, the Oxford comma is a comma placed between the last two products in a series of 3 or more.
The Oxford comma falls after “hat” in this sentence:
” She wore a coat, hat, and mittens.”
While some composing style guides do not use the Oxford comma, fans state its necessary to prevent potential uncertainty. And if theres something authors can agree on, its the significance of clearness. Sometimes, an additional comma matters.
Does AP design utilize the Oxford comma?
The short answer: No.
Many authors, including reporters, live by the Associated Press stylebook. AP design does not utilize Oxford commas.
Nevertheless, Chicago design does require Oxford commas. Thats the Chicago Manual of Style, which is typically utilized by book publishers, academics and trade publications.
So the decision about whether to use an Oxford comma counts on what type of writing youre doing, and which style guide uses to that task.
If youre composing for a news site, you most likely wish to follow AP style and avoid the Oxford comma. If youre writing an unique you plan to submit to publishers, you most likely desire to follow Chicago design, which does use the Oxford comma.
An Oxford comma example
Lets evaluate how the Oxford comma works.
Heres an example of a sentence with the Oxford comma: “I appreciate my moms and dads, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa.”
Its clear in this example that I appreciate my parents, in addition to Gandhi and Mother Teresa.
However eliminate that serial comma, and the sentence reads, “I appreciate my moms and dads, Gandhi and Mother Teresa.” One could argue that, written by doing this, the sentence suggests that Gandhi and Mother Teresa are my moms and dads. While the average individual would understand this isnt most likely to be the case, it highlights how easily a missing out on comma can change the significance of a sentence.
( Dictionary.com provides more amusing examples.).
It was precisely this type of ambiguity that led to the Maine case with the dairy farmers– the oxford comma lawsuit.
The Oxford comma argument, and a $10 million comma.
In this class action lawsuit, chauffeurs for Oakhurst Dairy sued the company over its failure to give them overtime pay.
Workers in Maine are entitled to 1.5 times their normal spend for hours worked over 40 per week, according to state law. There are exemptions to this guideline. Specifically, the law states, companies dont have to pay overtime for the following activities:.
The canning, processing, protecting, freezing, drying, marketing, saving, loading for shipment or circulation of:.

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