The Oxford Comma in Legal Writing

To make cookies you need: eggs, butter, sugar, sugar, different sugar, more sugar, and/or comma and soul.

I was involved in heated discussion with two co-workers today on the use of the oxford comma in legal writing. Tonight I was interested in exploring this topic, and settling the score, once and for all. <——see what I did.

When do we comma in legal writing??

Heh, heh, and heh

After reviewing numerous sites and reading many articles on this topic, it seems to be pretty cut and dry:

In legal writing:
Creativity and rhythm is not the priority.
Clarity is the priority.

Therefor, WHEN IN DOUBT, use commas. Personally, I think most of the time I don’t use a comma before and. It is redundant and bad style. Regardless, I respect those who are concerned with using this comma before an and. Personally, I’m generally so focused on content when reading, I don’t really have time to be noticing commas or lack thereof.

Conclusion: USE IT in legal writing, especially where clarity and logical separation is an issue.

  • (1) The The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage says you don’t need it, but
  • (2) the The Chicago Manual of Style says you do, and
  • (3) i just like lists.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

-Robert Frost

vs

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.

-Lawyer