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Erroneuos report causes comma confusion



"Patrick Kennedy, 43, the son of the late Edward Kennedy and a former Rhode Island congressman, will wed his fiance on Friday ... "

I wonder which one he calls "Mama." A comma after "Kennedy" would have made clearer that Patrick Kennedy himself, not a parent, is the former Rhode Island congressman. Rearranging the sentence would have been better still — "Patrick Kennedy, a former Rhode Island congressman and the son of the late Edward Kennedy, will wed ... " But we're talking commas today, prompted by a report (erroneous, it turned out) that Oxford University was changing its famous comma rule, the one that puts a comma before "and," a practice offensive to many other punctuation pundits. This is from the Associated Press:

"A report that Oxford University had changed its comma rule left some punctuation obsessives alarmed, annoyed, and distraught. Passions subsided as the university said the news was imprecise, incomplete and misleading. ... Catch the difference between the two previous sentences? An 'Oxford comma' was used before 'and' in the first sentence, but is absent in the second in accordance with the style used by the Associated Press."

The people that Jim Quinn called "comma connoisseurs" take this sort of thing very seriously. Most newspapers follow the AP style, and employ comma catchers to find and remove all commas appearing before and's.

My own rule, known as "the Smith comma and/or non-comma, whatever," is to put a comma in if the sentence reads better with it, and leave the comma out if the sentence reads better that way. A sensible policy, I think, rejected out of hand by copy editors who value uniformity above all.

n Between the two of we:

"Morrison, 23, is in his first full season with the Florida Marlins, and he fielded questions from a New York radio station earlier this week regarding the Marlins' struggles and his tweets, one of which relayed a conversation between he and his interim manager, Jack McKeon."

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