How to Set the Oxford Comma in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word can warn you about the Oxford or “serial comma”, whether you prefer to use the extra comma or not. It is a feature in the latest Word 365 and Word 2019 and goes back to Word 2002. By default, the option is off.

Microsoft Word can warn you about the Oxford or “serial comma”, whether you prefer to use the extra comma or not. It is a feature in the latest Word 365 and Word 2019 and goes back to Word 2002. By default, the option is off.

The Oxford comma is one of those grammatical things that most people do not worry about. It is a question of whether to add a comma at the end of a list, for example:

Raymond is teaching on Word, Excel, Access and Outlook.

Or using the Oxford comma:

Raymond is teaching on Word, Excel, Access, and Outlook.

It is okay to ingnore the Oxford comma for personal documents, emails, tweets and your personal Facebook page. However for business purposes, especially legal documents, you should use the Oxford comma. Avoiding the use of the Oxford comma has resulted in various lawsuits forcing companies to pay employees millions; what was implied without the comma failed in the courts. Moral of the lawsuits; use the Oxford comma for clarity and to avoid lawsuits.

In our example, using the Oxford comma says Raymond is teaching each class separately. Without the comma denotes that Raymond is teaching Access and Outlook as a combined class.

The setting for the Oxford comma has changed in the various Word versions.

This is for Word 365, Word 2019, and Word 2016 for PCs and Macs

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Finding the Oxford Comma

Open a Word document. Next, click the File menu option. Now, navigate to

Options > Proofing > Writing Style > Settings

Now, scroll down the long list till you see the Oxford Comma checkbox in the Punctuation Conventions section. Refer to below image:

Oxford Comma 1
The Oxford Comma option

Setting the Oxford Comma

Checking the box will enforce the comma in lists. A missing Oxford comma will show a red dashed line with the suggestion “A comma before “and” or “or” could make this clearer.” See below image:

Oxford Comma 2
The Oxford Comma suggestion

Grammar checking in English is hard but the software does a remarkable job. This being said, the feature is not perfect and is no substitute for proof reading.

While discussing grammer, there is another similar situation. I see a lot of blog posts using words like “It’s” or Doesn”t”. The correct usage is to avoid using the apostrophe. In my examples, you would spell out the words to say “It is” and “Does not” for clarity.

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