Last week, Jason Kottke tracked the fate of the Oxford comma at Oxford. Oxford University Press is for the comma. But the university’s “Branding toolkit” recommends the comma’s use only when such use clarifies a sentence’s meaning. My take: using the Oxford comma makes sense. If you always include it, you simplify in a small way the work of writing, and you never run the risk of unintended ambiguity.
Also in the news: the exclamation point, in a New York Times survey of e-mail habits. I think that sparing use of the exclamation point in work-related e-mail can be a good thing. “Thanks!” seems to suggest more-deeply-felt gratitude than “Thanks.” (The sample student-to-professor e-mail in my post on how to e-mail a professor has such a “Thanks!”) Much depends upon the conventions of a workplace: in the land of the low-key and terse, “Thanks!” will likely sound bubbly and overcaffeinated; in a more spirited environment, “Thanks” might sound begrudging. And In the right (or wrong) context, any expression of gratitude is likely to sound passive-aggressive:
Thanks a lot!
E-mail and punctuation
How to punctuate a sentence
How to punctuate more sentences
[Should you ever need to enliven a discussion of punctuation, you might turn to this Oxford-comma conversation. It can bring a classroom to life and keep it there.]