Exceptions do not a rule prove.

One of those rare instances that necessitates the use of an Oxford (or serial) comma.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 9.40.17 AM cropped

Why?

Because WITHOUT the Oxford comma, the parenthetical information is confusing and could be understood to mean that the “enabling media” is approximated1 (“~”) as “fluids,” and by the inclusion of “or,” “fluids” “could also be called” “force-fields.”

Including the Oxford comma disambiguates the parenthetical information by clearly distinguishing “fluids” and “force-fields” as different entities in the approximation.

Generally, however, the serial comma is unnecessary when confusing either/or possibilities of interpretation DO NOT arise without it.

Thus, this exception that requires an Oxford comma does not prove the rule that the Oxford comma should always be used as a stylistic thing.


  1. “approximated” in this context means “can be thought of as” or “called” etc. Apologies for all the quotes. I had thought of using alternating ” and ‘ sets, but I don’t believe that would be a proper construction. [… mean that the “enabling media” is approximated* (“~”) as ‘fluids,’ and by the inclusion of “or,” ‘fluids’ “could also be called” ‘force-fields.’] I think the “proper” construction is better.
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