Oh, Boromir. My poor, doomed-to-die fantasy hero. Yeah, one does. And by the way, you forgot a period at the end of your sentence.
Even non-writers are non-shy about expressing their opinion over comma placement. But nothing is quite so galvanizing as the dear old Oxford comma. Now, before I make a whole lotta friends, let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same comma.
a comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’ (e.g. an Italian painter, sculptor, and architect).
— Google search results
When you go straight to the source, the Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “A comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’ (e.g. an Italian painter, sculptor, and architect). Also called Oxford comma.” It also states that it’s “an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list”.
Alright, now that we’re on the same metaphorical (and digital) page, I’m going to be honest—and brace myself for a wave of unfollows.
I don’t typically use the Oxford comma.
Before you start throwing veggies at your screen, hear me out. I’m writing from the perspective of a digital copywriter.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land called Houston, I was an art student. Then I became a graphic artist and web designer. I sketched, a lot.
Now I’m a copywriter who works alongside graphic artists and web designers. And they sketch, a lot. During meetings, in brainstorming sessions, at their desks — their pens and pencils skim over whatever’s handy with a steady rhythm. And in just a few minutes, they can sketch some amazing stuff.
Last week, I was five minutes early for a meeting. So I followed their example but instead of sketching pictures, I jotted down random phrases that popped in my head.
The results themselves were terrible, but it was still worth it.
“Please don’t judge my spelling, I know you’re a writer.”
“I’m sorry for my sloppy email, I know you’re a writer.”
“I apologize in advance for my crappy IM, I know you’re a writer.”
– Lots of people
I hear these fearful phrases (and similar) more often than I’d like, usually from people who are about to put something in writing for me to read.
Colleagues, new friends, old friends, casual acquaintances, passersby on the Internet—you name it, too many people are afraid I’m going to point out their mistakes just because I’m a writer.
But I’m not.
I’m not a member of the grammar police. And I don’t know a writer who is. Yes, we’re sticklers and yes, we do enjoy a good Oxford comma debate. But I’d like to think enough of us know when to turn it off.
But it does make me want to ask—when is it okay to edit and when is it not?
Okay, time to rest my copywriter’s hat on my head. Today’s copywriters need an online presence. However, I’d wager that when a writer first thinks of building a website, the thought process goes something like this…
OMG!! It needs to be perfect or I’ll never work again! Quick, someone tell me how to make it perfect!!! I NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING NOW!!! AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!
At least it did for me.
An MVP website is one way to start. By “MVP,” I mean minimal viable product. As in “What is the most basic website I can get away with and still look good?”
No one gets where they are by themselves. Positive or otherwise, we’re all shaped by the advice we choose to take or ignore.
These are some of the best bits of advice I’ve gotten over the years. When I follow it, I do better or at least feel better. Hopefully, you’ll find a bit or two that speaks to you.
Words of wisdom and stuff
Say it straight, then say it great.
Don’t depend on anyone else to inspire you. You have to inspire yourself.
Always go to the bathroom before you go into a meeting.
Have confidence in yourself. If you don’t, then don’t expect anyone else too. Know your worth.
Be your own creative director. Push yourself. Push your work. Push yourself as much as you want. Your director and partners can’t do it for you.
If something doesn’t sell the first time, keep it in your pocket. It might work next time.
Understand how you work. Know your own process. Be your own advocate.