Last night the nation watched the first presidential debate. In honor of this occasion, we would like to settle a little debate of our own. At MDPM Consulting, we employ a team of copywriters who provide our clients with both blog and website copy. Some of our team members even work on press releases, newsletters, and other writing projects a client might request. Again and again, we’ve found ourselves caught in a small debate with our readers about two contentious subjects: the amount of spaces that come after a period and the use of the Oxford comma. Today, we would like to finally settle the space and comma debate.
The Oxford Comma
The Oxford comma is also known as the serial comma, because it follows each item in a list. For example: I need to pick up eggs, bread, and hot sauce. The third comma after bread is the Oxford comma. Now, if you’re a journalist who uses the AP Stylebook, then you might write the same sentence like this: I need to pick up eggs, bread and hot sauce.
So, what’s the big deal? Why do we insist on using the Oxford comma? The truth is, sometimes it doesn’t make a huge difference, but at other times it can alter the meaning of the sentence. Take the sentences below:
“We brought the dogs, Amy, and Carl.”
“We brought the dogs, Amy and Carl.”
The first sentence tells the reader who you brought to the party. The second sentence insults your very good friends, Amy and Carl.
Always, Always One Space
Question: How many spaces should be after a period, one or two?
That’s right, one. Not two, never two. The answer is one. When typewriters were more prevalent, we needed two spaces to improve readability. However, with computers, one space looks cleaner and is easier to read. Now, in school I was definitely taught two spaces. However, I was also told that slavery wasn’t a factor in the Civil War, so obviously not everything you learn in school is 100 percent accurate. As this informative article by Grammar Girl points out, the AP Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style, among others, all recommend a single space following a period.
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