This headline didn't prove the Oxford comma is superior — it proved it's not

The Cult of the Oxford Comma reared its ugly head recently on Twitter when an obscure California attorney tweeted an example of the Oxford comma’s supposed superiority.

The tweet was an image of a Politico headline: “How Harry Reid, a Terrorist Interrogator and the Singer From Blink-182 Took UFOs Mainstream.” Above the image was the lawyer’s commentary: “And always remember to use the Oxford comma, kids.”

The dog whistle was heard far and wide. About 8,000 Oxford comma fanatics retweeted it and 80,000 liked it. They agreed that, without an Oxford comma after “interrogator,” the headline suggested that Harry Reid was not just a former United States Senator but also a terrorist interrogator and the front man for a rock band.

In the replies, hundreds of cultists took shots at the headline writer.

“I didn’t know Blink’s singer was named Harry Reid,” one replied.

“People who do not use the Oxford comma deserve a hefty fine, a 90 day jail sentence, and a day and night listening to lectures by Alan Greenspan,” another insisted.

Strong words from true believers. There’s just one problem. They’re wrong. An Oxford comma would not improve the Politico headline. Instead, it would make it ambiguous. Here’s my recent column explaining why.

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