Careful, your Oxford Comma is Showing

When writers get together they talk shop, just like those in other professions. Someone asked me recently if I had an opinion about the Oxford comma. The Oxford comma? I didn’t really want to admit that I had no idea what an Oxford comma was, but I think I mumbled something half-way intelligible. At least, I hope I did.

I did what any self-respecting writer would do – I did my homework. The Oxford comma has a Facebook page. I’m serious about that. Copious websites have been dedicated to the Oxford comma. Who knew? I didn’t. I consulted my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. The sixteenth edition of the manual is over one-thousand pages long, was released simultaneously online and in print, and is the editor’s bible.

By the way, I just used the Oxford comma. It turns out it’s also known as the serial comma. When a conjunction follows a list of three or more items, then a comma should appear before the conjunction.

Using the Oxford – or serial – comma, can avoid confusion.

They dined on meat, potatoes, and carrots.

There’s no confusion about that sentence, but what about this next one?

They met with the company president, the chief financial officer and executive assistant.

Is the chief financial officer really also the executive assistant? Maybe that’s a bad example, but I think you get the point. The way I was trained, the serial comma was unnecessary. After reading more about it, I’ve changed my mind. So I guess I do have an opinion on the Oxford Comma. I use it. Now I suppose I’m going to have to edit my manuscripts to correct for the serial comma.

The Chicago Manual of Style is available online at the following web site.


Book Review–Renegades Write the Rules

book review


Amy Jo Martin has enjoyed tremendous success using Twitter to connect with fan base for her clients who are mostly sports figures or sports franchises and she is known as “The Twitter Queen.” Engaging fans through social media, mostly Twitter, has propelled her clients, who include Shaquille O’Neal, to tremendous success. Ms. Martin promises to explore both of these and more celebrity-franchise-as-brands in greater detail in her new book, “Renegades Write the Rules”.

I found Ms. Martin’s book highly readable but short on significant substance. As I read, although I was entertained by the stories of how her sports celebrity customers use social media, I became aware that she was holding real information. For this reason, I feel her work falls short of being a definitive social media guide. Fans of sports celebrities will probably enjoy it tremendously.

Ms. Martin’s book is not broken down into chapters. She presents rules. There are eight of them in the book as subject headers. She has rules like Be the Media, Show Some Skin, Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. Through the use of juxtaposition, Ms. Martin contrasts successful and not-so-successful branding to illustrate her viewpoint and these stories are very enjoyable. The reader should keep in mind that although she uses the phrase “social media” profusely, she mostly means Twitter. Most of her illustrative examples are outlines of Twitter campaigns with a minor mention of Facebook every now and then.

Ms. Martin makes a convincing case for success in social media marketing requiring a management team willing to engage and alter some of their thinking. She offers kernels of wisdom, such as considering ROI not just to be “return on investment” but also “return on influence”. Over and over she makes her case for the most successful campaigns coming from brands where upper management embraced the concept of employing social media (and she means Twitter) to exchange ideas with customers.

The book lacked specifics for my tastes and the reason for that becomes clear when one gets to the end of the book. This book leaves you wanting more and Ms. Martin is ready to offer that with her online university, Digital Royal University! Here one can take classes in such subjects as The Art of Social Media Event Activation or Emerging Platforms. This entire book appears to be an advertisement, albeit a highly enjoyable one.

On Being a Business Writer

Wikipedia Round About

I feel compelled to vent my frustrations with Wikipedia. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a terrific resource. But I encountered a solid catch-22 with my first entry and I’m still not sure if that reflects on me as a writer or on Wikipedia being confusing just out of sheer spite. If anybody figures that out, be sure to let me know, please.

It went like this. A friend who is an author asked me to write a Wikipedia entry for her. I agreed to help her out as I was eager for the experience. My family always said that my Dad could talk to anybody anytime about anything. Well, I can write three hundred and fifty words about almost anything and I’m up for any chance to stretch my skills. Wikipedia got the better of me. I’m not ashamed to admit that.

Being a novice, I went through the article wizard and submitted my entry for approval. My submission needed editing, but they did not like the user name I selected and said that I could not edit until I changed the user name because they had blocked me. But I couldn’t change the user name without being able to make an edit and I couldn’t because I was blocked. Do you see the problem? In what universe does that make sense? Certainly not mine. I ended up starting an entirely new account and I could not see my pending article until I re-wrote it and the site found my pending article under my old user name.

As I write this, I’m not sure about the status of my resubmission.

I’m too afraid to look.