Also known as the serial comma, the Oxford comma can be a tricky little piece of grammar. It's used to clarify meaning before conjunctions such as ‘and' or ‘or' in a sentence. As of writing this article, the Oxford comma has almost 33,000 likes on Facebook; super important evidence that it is important to certain people.
The Oxford comma is not necessary in a simple list, as the meaning is evident without it. However, it is used in more complex sentences to help readers to understand more clearly.
Really, it's up to you if you want to use it in your work but if you decide you want to it's important you remain consistent! If you are going to use the Oxford comma it will help you avoid ambiguity, will help readers to comprehend more difficult syntax structures and will match natural speech patterns. That said, it can also make your writing more difficult to understand, it is often regarded as redundant and it takes up space.
You can also decide whether you wish to use it based on your location. If you live in the UK, Canada or Australia you can probably get away with omitting the Oxford comma. However, if you dwell in the USA it's probably best that you apply it.
I told my friend Graham that I often cycle the two miles from my house to the town centre but unfortunately there is a big hill on the route. He replied, ‘You mean fortunately.’ He explained that I should be glad of the extra exercise that the hill provided.
My attitude to the hill has now changed. I used to grumble as I approached it but now I tell myself the following. This hill will exercise my heart and lungs. It will help me to lose weight and get fit. It will mean that I live longer. This hill is my friend. Finally as I wend my way up the incline I console myself with the thought of all those silly people who pay money to go to a gym and sit on stationery exercise bicycles when I can get the same value for free. I have a smug smile of satisfaction as I reach the top of the hill.
Problems are there to be faced and overcome. We cannot achieve anything with an easy life. Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to gain a University degree. Her activism and writing proved inspirational. She wrote, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
One of the main determinants of success in life is our attitude towards adversity. From time to time we all face hardships, problems, accidents, afflictions and difficulties. Some are of our making but many confront us through no fault of our own. Whilst we cannot choose the adversity we can choose our attitude towards it.
Douglas Bader was 21 when in 1931 he had both legs amputated following a flying accident. He was determined to fly again and went on to become one of the leading flying aces in the Battle of Britain with 22 aerial victories over the Germans. He was an inspiration to others during the war. He said, “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind, you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible.”
How can you change your attitude towards the adversity that you face? Try these steps:
Confront the problem. Do not avoid it.
Deliberately take a positive attitude and write down some benefits or advantages of the situation.
Visualise how you will feel when you overcome this obstacle.
Develop an action plan for how to tackle it.
Smile and get cracking.
The biographies of great people are littered with examples of how they took these kinds of steps to overcome the difficulties they faced. The common thread is that they did not become defeatist or depressed. They chose their attitude. They opted to be positive. They took on the challenge. They won.