Anti-Oxford comma apologists frequently argue serial commas are unnecessary because readers derive sentence meaning from context, not commas. To steal a sample sentence from Blake, consider, “Faith, hope and love remain.” Some, including Blake, would argue a comma isn’t necessary after “hope” because context dictates “faith, hope, and love” belong to the same series. But as I, the reader, gaze over the sentence, I consume it left to right and, although quickly, only a word or two at a time.

As my eyes pass from the comma after “faith” to the word “hope” absent a comma, the missing punctuation signals to my brain that I am not looking at a series, but rather an instance of direct address. (This is particularly noteworthy because while people usually use the presence of imprecise appositives in defense of the Oxford comma, missing serial commas even complicate direct address.)

The sentence “Faith, hope and love remain,” could just as easily convey that the writer is telling a girl named Faith that hope and love remain. Of course, by the time I reach the end of the sentence, I’ve realized that isn’t the message the writer intended to communicate, but by then I’m probably rewinding to re-read the sentence under new contextual enlightenment.