Saturday, March 25, 2017

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will make the meaning of the sentence unclear.  Others tout that not using the Oxford Comma is a sin punishable by twenty lashes with a wet comma. 
 
I believe that the only rules are to be consistent with whether or not you use the Oxford comma, and always use it when your series-sentences are not clear. 
 
There is a recent court case in Maine where the failure to use an Oxford Comma in Maine resulted in an ambiguous law. Even though this legal mishap has been all over the news, I researched the Maine statute.  Title 26 of the Labor and Industry, section 664(F), says that overtime pay does not apply to:
 
F.   The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:              
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
 
Notice the highlighted portion above.  I can see how this law is ambiguous because we don’t know if overtime is not allowed when it comes to “packing for distribution or shipping,” or if packing for distribution is separate from shipping.  Because of the lack of a comma, an employee won his suit for overtime pay. 
 
If the usage of the Oxford comma is so serious when it comes to the law, then it must be taken seriously when we write our articles and our stories. We want clear and concise writing. Does this mean that we should always use the Oxford comma? 
 
Personally, I believe whether or not to use the Oxford comma is a personal choice.  The most important thing is to make sure our writing is clear and concise. 
 
This week as your write your wonderful story, grueling article, or fantastic legal brief, your priority is to create sentences that do not confuse the reader. How you get there is completely up to you.   

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Everything is a New Perspective

These last seventeen months have been ones of overload leading to renewal and a fresh perspective, and what feels like a new lease on life. My partner recovered well from his heart surgery. Late last spring, I changed law firms and now walk less than sixty seconds to my office. To celebrate all of our good fortunes, my partner and I spent a beautiful week during September 2016 in Rockport, Massachusetts with his family. Sometimes we visited castles, museums and islands, and other times we sat on the front porch eating snacks, sipping beverages and talking about memories and experiences.

I wish I could share that I have gotten plenty of creative writing done this year, when in fact my attention has been focused on writing articles for the Reap Record, the newsletter for Redwood Empire Association on Paralegals. I also, upon invitation, wrote an article on construction defect for our local Bar Association journal. 

My creative writing has been on the back burner for too long, but now I am pushing myself to submit a short story to our local anthology.  I am exactly ten days away from the deadline and about 500 words in, with the story allowed a maximum word count of 2500.  All stories submitted for consideration must be about Sonoma County. Two of my characters are from the late eighteen-hundreds who lived a small town in the northern part of the county, and my main character is from the same town in the mid nineteen-seventies.  In fact, if you were sitting in my office right now, you would see the pictures of my characters pinned to my bulletin board, along with photographs of that small town that burned down years ago.

Now that I am back in action mode, I have decided it's time to set some goals:
  • This week I will complete my short story and submit it before the deadline.
  • This weekend I will work on my tax returns.
  • Next week I will complete my article on family law for the Reap Record.
  • During the coming weeks, I will do the necessary footwork for a mutual project in the works.
Finally, it's time to get devote at least an hour a day to sitting in the chair and working on my stories. At some point, I will also decide whether to permanently shelve my novel, or refurbish parts into a new story. 

Happy writing all, and always allow words to empower you.

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will...