Dyslexia and the “Oxford Comma” Debate

The Oxford comma is just one more instance of why mastering reading and writing can be challenging for students with learning differences such as dyslexia. (Other common pitfalls include words that are impossible to spell and how to pronounce Worcestershire  sauce.)

I am firmly a member of Team Oxford Comma, so I felt quite vindicated when I recently saw an article in the Boston Globe where the lack of a comma wound up costing millions of dollars!

Oddly enough, I remember quite vividly when I made my choice to swear fealty to the Oxford comma. In third grade my teacher introduced us to both comma systems, pointing out an important difference between them. The standard method, without the extra comma, can sometimes make the meaning of a sentence unclear. The Oxford comma, on the other hand, was almost always correct. That decided it for me! As a student with dyslexia, I felt like I already made too many mistakes and had a hard time learning grammar rules. In this situation, I chose to save my brain real estate by learning only one rule — the one that was more likely to be correct!


While there are many humorous ways to advocate for or against the Oxford comma (here is a clever post from one of our favorite editing apps, Grammarly), this controversy does underscore the importance of teaching students clear and easy-to-follow strategies for reading and writing. When students have learning differences, they often struggle to navigate the seemingly arbitrary rules that govern reading and writing. Strategies will ensure that they can write clearly — and avoid million dollar lawsuits!

So are you Team Oxford Comma or Team Anti-Oxford Comma? Let us know your allegiance in the comments!

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager




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