Explicit is better than implicit, even when the end result is more wordy.
There's dozens of ways to rephrase this, but here's one:
The overtime provision of this section does not apply in cases when any of the hereby enumerated activities are done to any of the hereby enumerated categories of items.
The activities are:
(1) canning; (2) processing; (3) preserving; (4) freezing; (5) drying; (6) marketing; (7) storing; (8) packing for shipment; (9) distributing.
The categories of items are:
(1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; (3) Perishable foods.
Furthermore, there's an entire other line in this same paragraph about egg processing facilities above a certain size. This should be broken out elsewhere.
To my mother, Ayn Rand, and God
To <my mother, Ayn Rand>, and <God>
To <my mother>, <Ayn Rand>, and <God>
However, isn't it also ambiguous WITHOUT the Oxford comma?
It can be to three entities, same as with the comma:
To <my mother>, <Ayn Rand> and <God>
To <my mother>, <Ayn Rand and God>
It seems to me that the ambiguity in this comes not from the Oxford comma's presence or absence, but rather from whether or not the comma after "mother" is part of an appositive phrase.
Offhand, I don't think I've seen an example where an unambiguous sentence without an Oxford comma becomes ambiguous with the addition of the comma. All the ones I can recall have another ambiguity from an appositive phrase or similar without the Oxford comma and the Oxford comma at most just changes the ambiguity.
On the other hand there are sentences that are unambiguous with the Oxford comma that become ambiguous if it is removed.
This suggests that the Oxford comma should always be used when the list has more than two items, and it is appositive phrases that we need to be scrutinizing.
For appositive phrases, maybe we should use parenthesis instead of comma? In the above examples the appositive phrase cases become:
To my mother (Ayn Rand) and God
To my mother (Ayn Rand and God)
To my mother - Ayn Rand - and God.
To my mother (Ayn Rand) and God.
How any rational and intelligent person could argue for anything else is beyond me. Or maybe I've stumbled upon the dark secret of the humanities?
Without the Oxford comma, it is unambiguous because we know that the comma cannot be making an appositive phrase, because if it was that phrase would include "Ayn Rand and my daughter". We know that your mother cannot be your daughter, so that cannot be intended part of an appositive phrase.
Note, though, that it is only unambiguous without the Oxford comma because we know that one's mother cannot be one's daughter. So in some sense it actually is ambiguous grammatically but we can resolve the ambiguity by using knowledge beyond grammar. (I don't know if punctuation counts as grammar, but I'm counting it in this comment).
As with my examples, the ambiguity stems from comma being both a list separator and a separator for parts of appositive phrases.
If we were to write appositive phrases like I suggested (using parenthesis instead of commas), and always use the Oxford comma, it would become "To my mother, Ayn Rand, and my daughter" and would be grammatically unambiguous. We would not need to know the meaning of the words to parse it. We would only need to know their grammatical categories.
It's also a good idea to rephrase to avoid the ambiguity. E.g.,
To my mother, Ayn Rand; and also to my daughter, and God.
To my mother, to Ayn Rand, to my daughter, and to God.
The trick is to notice these issues as you write. Of course, that's not always easy, and it's particularly difficult when speaking, but at least it's not usually expected when speaking.
To my mother Ayn Rand, my daughter, and God.
And if we sense ambiguity we'll often similarly extend subsequent pauses to clearly separate list items.
We'll also often add body language to make the emphasis on connections even stronger.
I'm guessing a lot of ambiguous written lists are ambiguous because people have written the words roughly how they'd said them, and tried to follow grammar rules without thinking about the extra cues they're leaving out that'd be there if speaking.
To joe blogs, the pope, my cat and ferrari.
Let's think for a moment. How would I write that if Pope Joe was my Cat?
To joe blogs (the pope and my cat) and ferrari.
To my mother Ayn Rand, and my daughter.
I think we would benefit from a simplified, formalized version of English for things like documentation and legalese. Does something like that already exist?
"To my mother, my daughter, and Ayn Rand" or
"To my mother, my daughter and Ayn Rand".
The presence of the Oxford comma, or lack thereof doesn't seem to affect the ambiguity.
- Ayn Rand can't be in apposition of my mother as there's no comma setting Ayn Rand off from my daughter
- Similarly, Ayn Rand and my daughter are not in apposition
- my daughter and my mother are mutually exclusive
This is described in more detail here:
> "To my mother, Ayn Rand, and my daughter"
Adding the Oxford comma creates ambiguity between my mother and Ayn Rand, unless the speaker is Ayn Rand's daughter.
Semantic disambiguation also imposes a higher cognitive load on the reader -- sometimes that's the point (high-brow writin'). But you should consider the poor reader. After all, you want to be read and understood.
That's not possible so we can rule out the comma making an appositive phrase, and see that it must be a list comma, and we've got no ambiguity.
Putting in the Oxford comma makes it so we could interpret "My mother, Ayn Rand," as an appositive phrase, and we have ambiguity.
(I understand the Times style guide advises against it. I'm still pretty sure he did it on purpose.)
I see no Oxford comma there. Am I missing something?
Maybe it sounds more palatable said the other way round: the people whose job can't reasonably be expected to involve overtime are the ones who most need statutory protection when they're suddenly asked to work overtime (because they didn't plan for it when negotiating their contract, for example).
We live in an era where the rights of workers and individuals is held in contempt by those in business and government. If you aren’t wealthy, you’re defective.
As a tech lead, I have made it my sacred duty to build people up rather than exploit them as 'resources'.
Might not be the typical case for IT workers, but if I started complaining about overtime pay and wanting to get paid for hours I'm actually working, I might just find myself taking a pay cut.
I'm lucky that at my current job, despite legally being exempt, we actually get overtime. If I want to work more hours one night and go in late the next day I will do that. But if the company needs me to work after hours or on weekends, then they should pay overtime.
The flip side of this is there's no such thing as undertime either. If you go home early one day, you still get paid for the full day.
But here is a thing -
Right now I am eating a dairy snack item that someone drove in a massive lorry across the Alps with, risking life and limb, climate changing the ozone hole in the process.
Theoretically this truck loaded with useful quantities of yoghurt laced with sugar could have been slowed down by ice, floods and immigrants on the road - anything could have happened.
You would think that it might be possible to buy a locally made dairy item. Cows used to be personally owned, as common as cars and really useful for pulling ploughs primarily. Then horses stepped up to the plough pulling and cows became relegated to dairy herds, no longer man's best 'prime mover' and not personally owned. There has been a lot of consolidation since, hence the food miles.
The dairy in town closed down a long time ago, the farmers now do other things with their fields and even the big dairy they built on a factory scale is closed as that was not competitive in the marketplace. The subsidies have gone and now the food miles are not really anything anyone cares about. However we do have massive lorries towing useful things like yoghurt and even water over the Alps.
I know that lorry drivers in Europe have some tachometer that does not lie. They therefore cannot rack up the overtime extensively. There is a limit to how many hours they can be physically at the wheel or else they would be breaking the law.
In dairy you do have weather related yield changes, so if it is really dry and the cows have nothing to eat then there is not the same supply as when everything is lush and green. There are also supply changes, demand can go silly at Christmas. I appreciate that in 1956 or whenever it was necessary to get 'farm hands' to pull their weight when nature demanded it but we have moved in to a sillier world and I bet those Maine drivers aren't doing local runs but taking product many miles across many 'Alps' in a supply chain that has over-evolved for yester-laws.
Seriously, I can't help but wonder if we have made some comically bad mistakes in letting food become so centralized.
Small-scale dairy requires a huge commitment of time at regular, consistent times. It is about as far from a casual hobby as you can get.
(Source: my wife wanted a dairy goat. We no longer have goats.)
Like code, disambiguating my text is why I generally favor using the Oxford comma in my writing. Not using it is the equivalent to not using parenthesis in a complex logical expression, and defaulting to known order of operations.
Say you want to express:
Jane and Tom, Bill and Wendy, or Susie and Frank.
(Jane && Tom) || (Bill && Wendy) || (Susie && Frank)
The distribution, canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing or packing for shipment of:
I'm a fan of the Oxford comma and think it would still add clarity here. The semicolon solution is ham-fisted and unnecessary.
Any activity necessary to prevent the spoilage
of comestible goods prior to their arrival at a
market where they may be offered for sale to
consumers, including, but not limited to, the
activities specified in subsection (1) and the
goods specified in subsection (2).
(h) Packing for shipment, or
(a) Agricultural produce,
(b) Meat products,
(c) Fish products, or
(d) Perishable foods.
Writing the intent of the law into the actual law is a great way to keep lawyers from arguing over commas.
What we want is for them to argue about whether pasteurized dairy goods would have spoiled if the drivers had worked a normal shift. Presumably, they would have been kept in refrigerators overnight?
But it would have been even clearer to not have the law at all. The businesses that benefited from it would just have to pay more for the labor capacity that they clearly anticipated, since they got a legislator to pass this law for them. Need more driver labor to get your milk to market? Hire another driver or pay your existing drivers overtime!
"A, B, C or D" is a correct sentence without Oxford comma, and the structure used originally. "A, B, C, or D" is also correct, and does have the Oxford comma. But the interpretation I mentioned reads the sentence as "A, B, C" -- where C is the whole of "packing for shipment or distribution". You need something there, either "and" or "or" or something similar. I'd say the language is perfectly unambiguous, if a little strained. But that's just law texts in general.
California's red-light infractions are a pretty common example of this. The vehicle code lays out what the infractions are, and the people who drafted it have said very clearly that they intended to have a "rolling turn" -- making a right turn at a red light without coming to a full stop first -- be a lesser infraction than running a red (driving straight through without stopping). But a number of cities in California have argued the language is ambiguous enough to let them ticket a rolling turn as running the red light, and that's exactly what they do (most likely because the fines and fees are far higher). It's also pretty well known that anyone who hires a lawyer to fight one of those will get the ticket dismissed, because the cities don't want it to ever be argued all the way out and potentially turn into a ruling against their interpretation.
packing for shipment ||
(Agricultural produce &&
Meat and fish products &&
Incidentally, this also explains the content of the LSAT, as discussed previously at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15683658
It seems to me like the intent is to avoid economic waste due to spoilage of perishable goods that might otherwise be sold, but for a dearth of timely labor.
It also seems like the burden should be on the employer to hire more laborers if they have need of more labor, or to demonstrate some reasonable level of urgency that would have prevented hiring.
Since this suit covered years of unpaid overtime, it is clear to me that someone bought themselves a "F U" law that only benefits their own selfish interests, at the expense of someone else. It is likely responsible for the failure of the business to hire an additional permanent driver employee, or to ever employ a contractor to pick up the slack during rushes and crunches.
Your employer is in a better position to lobby for a law that will let them underpay 1000 employees by $100 each, then then their employees are to protect themselves from such a law.
> (In most cases, The Times stylebook discourages the serial comma, often called the Oxford comma because it was traditionally used by the Oxford University Press.)
Does the Times just not like styling ideas from the Oxford University Press, or is the name "Oxford comma" derived from its traditional use by the Oxford University Press, or both?
What does the Times have against the Oxford University Press, or the Oxford comma, anyways?
If you really love the Oxford Comma you don't know much about writing and need a new hobby. If you really hate the Oxford Comma you don't know much about writing and need a new hobby.
> In an interview for the Huffington Post, Vincent Connare, designer of Comic Sans, said, “if you love Comic Sans, you don’t know anything about typography. But if you hate Comic Sans, then you don’t know anything about typography either…and you should get another hobby”.
Obey De-Morgans law, or not. Yoda doesn't care.