what is an oxford comma

The Oxford Comma on Your Resume

“What is an Oxford comma,” you ask? 

Take a look at this brief, charming TEDEd video, to learn more.

After you do that, we’ll talk about whether or not you should use it on your resume.

Why Does the Oxford Comma Matter?

I love this comma. It’s one of my favorite punctuation marks. I actually get a tad unnerved when it’s missing.

Why?

Well, because as they outlined in the brief, charming video, it adds clarity and accuracy to writing, especially when you’re writing a list. The comma helps prevent ambiguity.

Thus, it’s courteous to use it.

It could also save you $5 million. Check out this New York Times article about a lawsuit filed by truck drivers for overtime pay that hinged on the use of the Oxford comma.

Although the Oxford University Press stopped insisting on the comma in 2011, it’s still recommended by many U.S. style guides.

Common sense guidance says to use the Oxford comma, also called the serial comma, when it clarifies the meaning of a sentence, especially regarding items in a list.

The Oxford Comma in Resumes, Yes or No?

I use the Oxford comma in my clients’ resumes because they always include lists. I like anything that makes it easier for a reader to comprehend a resume. Anything. 

Consistency

If you decide to go with the Oxford comma in your resume, be sure to use it consistently.

While you could just use it when it adds clarity, resumes represent a special use case where consistency matters.

If you use that final comma before conjunctions such as “and” and “or” in some lists and not others, a portion of your readers will notice and ding you for “attention to detail.”

You don’t want to distract your readers and have them asking, “Why did this person use a comma before the word “and” at the end of this list but not at the end of this list?”

Rather, you want them deciding to schedule you for an interview!

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Video H/T: Mark Turner
Image Courtesy of Sidharth Bhatia
Updated March 2019

© 2014 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 7

  1. I’m a member of the Oxford Comma fan club.

    This reminded me of the tag line:

    “Let’s eat, Grandpa.”
    “Let’s eat Grandpa.”
    COMMAS SAVE LIVES. USE THEM.

    ANDY

  2. Thanks so much for posting this!

    I am one of the avid (no pun intended) supporters. I insert it everywhere that it’s missing, and scratch my head and wonder WHY it’s missing.
    It just seems like common sense to me that, if using it can help avoid confusion, then why NOT use it?

    This video was great.
    🙂

  3. Andy,

    Yes!

    And as David Ayer just noted on Twitter (watch the video folks!):

    “Let’s leave it up to my parents, Ayn Rand and God Almighty.”

  4. I am applying for medial relations and content development positions. I prefer using oxford commas; yet, for my cover letters I feel compelled to omit them as this is AP style used by media professionals. Thoughts?

  5. Adrienne,

    I’d go with AP style because it’s the preferred practice in your field.

    Donna

  6. BTW, Adrienne, my guess is that AP style is driven more by space constraints in narrow newspaper columns than by an interest in clarity. Every character matters when you have extreme space constraints.

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