Tales and Tips from a Roving Grammarian

From a Washingt0n Post review by Dennis Duncan of the book by Ellen Jovin titled “Rebel With a Clause: Tales and Tips from a Roving Grammarian”:

I invited Rona Jackson, my former roommate, and my boss to the party. How many people did I invite? Two or three?

The answer depends on what role the second comma is playing. Is it an Oxford comma? Or is it there to enclose a restrictive appositive (in other words, to tell us that Rona used to be my roommate)? In “Rebel With a ClauseEllen Jovin offers this example to show how, even when grammar rules are applied rigorously, we can still run into trouble. Besides, even the rules are merely conventions. “There’s no official, is the great thing about English,” she writes, in a sentence that wryly practices what it preaches. “It’s like the Wild Wild West.”