The Oxford comma is when you use a comma between the last item and the word “and” in a list — I like chicken, rice, and beans.
Here’s why I like the Oxford comma:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that happen to me while editing.
I mean, without the strippers.
Some publishers hate the Oxford comma. When I’m editing for different publishers, especially in other countries, I have to remind myself which they demand. A lot of writers think the comma feels too formal and is unnecessary. But for me, the Oxford comma just improves clarity, and with my journalism background, I think clarity is as important as anything we do. Yes, often it is unnecessary, but then you run into a situation where the meaning is ambiguous, like with Stalin and JFK. If you use it then, you’re being inconsistent, and I hate that even more.
You don’t want your readers to ever have to back up and say, “Wait, wha…? Ohhhhh.” That disrupts the flow, interferes with your readers’ experience, and pulls them out of the story.
Just use the dang comma.