We at Unboxed personally believe – nay, we KNOW – that the Oxford comma is imperative to good writing. However, many of our clients have style guides that don’t use it. Since we love all our clients, we always follow their style guides before our own.
The debate over whether the Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, should be included in lists of three (“I ran, showered, and went to the restaurant”) has been raging for decades and shows no signs of slowing down. This blog post makes the case that it should ALWAYS be used. In short, writers, you need to be using the Oxford comma!
Why is the Oxford comma so important?
People often ask grammar geeks why they enjoy grammar. The most common response? Because there is always a right answer. Unlike the majority of our day-to-day lives, where nuance thrives and nothing is black and white, grammar is a welcome respite from this ambivalence. Its strict nature is precisely what allows us to communicate and connect with one another. Without that structure, everyone would always be confused.
With this in mind, rules like the Oxford comma need to be enforced so readers will never be left to wonder about the exact meaning of a sentence. If I write that “I’m going to the beach with Jenny, Rob and Emily,” you probably know what I mean. But if I say, as in the famous (and slightly obnoxious) example, “We invited two strippers, JFK and Stalin,” you cannot LOGICALLY know whether I’m referring to four people or two people.
The Oxford comma has to exist when you don’t need it, so it will always exist when you do need it.
Addressing common (lazy) anti-Oxford justifications
If you have a logical brain, my introduction was probably all you need to read. You can leave this page now. If you’re still on the fence, you may be thinking of one of the following common anti-Oxford arguments:
“But AP Style says…”
It’s true, AP Style does not use the Oxford Comma. Why not, you ask? Well…
“It saves space”
…It’s a space issue. The amount of space that one measly comma took up on a physical newspaper actually used to matter. Did it matter more than making sure the words themselves had meaning? Not in my opinion. But regardless, guess what doesn’t exist anymore? Newsprint. Words are now read in books (which don’t have space restrictions) or on electronic devices, which really don’t have space restrictions. Case closed.
Quick tangent: Newspapers also hated the antiquated “two spaces after a period” rule, again because it saved them space. Unwittingly, they made paragraphs look sleeker and more modern by using only one space. While their reasoning for these two stances was the same, the results were different, because one negatively affected the meaning of sentences, while the other was a positive stylistic upgrade.
Someone told me, “Oh, come on. People are smart enough to understand what you mean based on contextual clues.” This is untrue. Context may make a sentence clear most of the time, but:
Even though most people can be fairly certain of my meaning, you can’t be 100% sure. You just can’t. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just be sure?
The world is a big place with thousands of cultures, and English (for right or wrong) has become the closest thing we’ve ever had to a universal language. Your context in Cleveland is irrelevant to someone in Senegal. Good thing the Oxford comma is there to be a unifying force in our modern world.
Context is constantly shifting over time – what’s clear to a millennial is not always clear to a Baby Boomer. And that’s okay, because we can just use the Oxford comma.
“It looks too complicated”
I mean, no it doesn’t. It looks almost exactly the same, with one key difference: we know what it means. What could be more beautiful than clarity?
A Closing Challenge
A quick thought experiment: Find me one sentence that is objectively better without an Oxford comma. What does “better” mean? Before anything else, a sentence must be understood by its reader. If it doesn’t achieve that, all the prose chops in the world won’t matter. With that in mind, please find me a sentence missing an Oxford comma that makes more sense than its correct counterpart.
It’s okay, I’ll wait…forever.
About the Author: Jared Booth is a Content Strategy Manager who partners with clients to strategize and build cutting-edge learning programs. He’d love to chat with you, especially if you disagree with his point of view in this blog post.
When it comes to Learning Management System and Learning Experience Platform, the difference is simple – it boils down to who controls the content and the learning journey. But which one is right for your organization?
Over the course of 2018, we were honored to partner with so many wonderful clients and make their training and sales enablement dreams come true. But one of our most important jobs came at the end of the year — a special request directly from the North Pole.
Watch the video to see how Unboxed saved the holidays.
Happy Holidays from Unboxed
From all of us at Unboxed, we wish you a very happy holiday season and a successful 2019.
Shifting from nice-to-have to need-to-have, office design is now a top tool in recruiting and retaining talent. In fact, a quarter of employees would go so far as to take a pay cut in exchange for better workspace. Today’s candidates expect to work in an environment that allows them to maximize their potential, a fact that hasn’t been lost on us as we continue to grow.
Movin’ On Up
This March we said goodbye to the business park we’d been in for the last five years and said hello to downtown RVA. We were in the land of fluorescent lighting, dark tinted windows, and limited lunch options and we knew we needed a change.
We kept our team informed throughout the entire process, sharing details as we scouted locations, asking for input on flooring and wall options, and polling employees to find out the amenities they wanted most. As our moniker alludes, we think outside the box. Custom is the name of our game, and that requires our team members to be creative on demand.
Light-filled and airy, our new space in The Bookbindery building on Broad Street was designed with those needs in mind. A stone’s throw from the Fan and Scott’s Addition, the office blends and embraces both the history and evolution of our city. The dining options are unmatched, and the potential for walking meetings only sweetens the deal.
Beyond Free Beer and Bean Bags
From the moment you walk into our new space, you’re met with collaborative energy. We have whiteboard walls to capture ideas and intentions, and a café that’s perfect for lunches with team members or weekly all-hands meetings, and plenty of spots to settle in for a quiet afternoon working in the sun.
For the floor plan, we opted for an open setup and took steps to ensure the creative process didn’t suffer as a result. We included huddle spaces and breakout rooms throughout the office to limit distractions—areas that also help account for changes in technology and mobile working preferences. The result is a diverse environment that allows employees more freedom and flexibility in where they work, think, create, and engage with one another.
See for yourself—with high ceilings, plenty of natural light, and Instagram-worthy exposed brick, the space is beautiful. We’ve got the requisite bean bags, leather couches, and fridge o’ (craft) beer, too. However, these features and perks do more than check the boxes of the latest list of office design trends. They allow us to work in a space that reflects who we are as an organization.
What Matters Most
We know that it’s not the office itself that makes our employees love the work they do and the business they do it for, though. That comes instead from finding satisfaction and progress in their roles, purpose in our products, and lasting and fulfilling connections with their colleagues and clients; those are the differentiators that matter the most.
Despite what awesome layouts and bonus amenities can do for talent retention, the reality of hiring smart, ambitious people like those that fill the four walls of Unboxed is that one day they may move on. That’s why whether it’s the first or last time an employee feasts their eyes on our exposed beams or sidles up to one of our standing conference tables, we want them to know they’re trusted, valued, and vital to our mission. This new office is just another way to reinforce that message.
Every team I’ve ever worked with struggles with time management. While we attend meetings, answer emails, and respond to unexpected challenges, we yearn for professional development—the first to go in times of frenzied task-switching.
My team at Unboxed is no different. We want to produce high-quality results, deliver on-time and on-budget, and acquire new skills—so we have to find smart ways to manage our time and focus rather than multi-task. Here are five time management hacks that will help you and your team members meet deadlines and achieve your professional goals.
Hack #1: Plan your week
Time box: 30 minutes
My weekly planning process, inspired by Getting Things Done by David Allen, begins first-thing Monday when I get to my desk. It goes like this:
Review email using the 4D method: delete, do, delegate, defer. More about this in Hack #2.
Refresh Friday’s to-do list. Add any email items that need to be addressed today.
Prioritize professional development. Schedule time for continued learning. (And if that time is late Friday afternoon, it might not happen. Earlier in the week is often better.)
Update this week’s calendar. Add any personal appointments such as the doctor, dentist, kids’ functions, etc. Create space for focused work. Make sure there are no overlapping meetings, and if that can’t be done, start declining meetings based on priorities.
Email any out-of-office reminders. Communicate schedule changes with affected team members.
I used to plan for the upcoming week on Fridays. However, I found things often came up over the weekend that forced me to re-do the plan. Planning on Fridays also caused me unnecessary stress because I was thinking about next week’s work over the weekend, when I needed to be present for my family. Planning on Monday fixed those issues.
Hack #2: Review email with the 4D method
Time box: 10 minutes
I typically look at email three times a day—in the morning, after lunch, and close of business. The 4D method works like this:
Delete when possible.
Do what’s asked if it takes less than two minutes.
Delegate if someone else should, or could, handle it.
Defer the task to a better time if it takes longer than two minutes.
I disable email notifications so I can stay focused. My team knows if they really need me, they can call, text, or come get me.
Hack #3: Complete a daily debriefing
Time box: 15 minutes
Hack #3, a retrospective of the day, is important because it allows my brain to shut off on the evening. Here is the daily debriefing framework I use:
Log today’s accomplishments.
Identify any impediments, who can resolve them, and specifics that will help resolve them.
List things that need to be done tomorrow.
Look for ways to improve. Ask:
What didn’t go as smoothly as it should have? What can I do better tomorrow?
When we slow down and ask questions like, “Is there anything I can do that will improve mine and my team’s productivity going forward?” there’s a side-benefit: we foster company-wide process improvements.
For example, I was in a meeting last Friday, and I noticed another team member’s scheduling system was pretty time-intensive and cumbersome. I wanted to help, so I made a note of it during my daily debriefing. When I plan my next week (Hack #1), I’ll look for a free block of time we can use to collaborate on a better method—which will result in increased productivity for the company. Time management for the win!
After the daily debriefing, it’s time to turn off the work brain. Everything necessary for tomorrow has been written down, so there’s no need for it to consume any more brain space and energy today.
Hack #4: Unplug
Time box: Daily
It’s extremely important to come into work with a fresh set of eyes and a fresh brain. If you’ve had a chance to step away from your tasks, you’re less likely to get spun out, and you’re more likely to be free and creative.
Need more convincing? Read the article Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too. After an overview of Charles Darwin’s daily—and surprisingly pleasant—routine, it argues Darwin and his amateur scientist/author/social reformer/lawmaker contemporary John Lubbock weren’t accomplished despite their leisure; they were accomplished because of it. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang explains:
“…despite their differences in personality and the different quality of their achievements, both Darwin and Lubbock managed something that seems increasingly alien today. Their lives were full and memorable, their work was prodigious, and yet their days are also filled with downtime.”
Ernest Hemingway wrote from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz “worked as a civil servant,” and “mainly wrote fiction in the late afternoon, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.” Writer Alice Munro: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.; and Gabriel García Márquez: five hours a day.
“…planning a vacation in advance led to better follow-through and using more of the time available to take off. Further, planning was responsible for a mood boost. Workers who planned their vacations resulted in increased happiness across nine factors, including professional success, financial situation, and their company.”
We should follow the example of accomplished men and women before us—and be willing to step away from our desks, go for a walk, and plan (and take!) vacations.
Hack #5: Gut-check meeting agendas
Time box: As needed
As a team, we plan most of our meetings (both internally and with our clients) at least two weeks in advance, generally during sprint planning. So, when I receive an ad hoc meeting invite, I immediately evaluate it. I ask:
Does it have an agenda?
Does it have clear goals or desired outcomes?
Is it as short as it could be?
Do I need to be there?
If the answers aren’t clear, I’ll ask the organizer, “Hey—what’s the agenda for this meeting?” Typically when someone sits down to write an agenda, they realize the meeting actually can be shorter, or the tasks can be accomplished in another way.
At Unboxed, we love to find ways to help people be more productive in their jobs. So, if there are any time management hacks that have really helped you achieve your goals, please share ‘em in the comments below!
At Unboxed, we understand sales can be an exhausting and sometimes daunting profession. So, let’s take a break from the hustle and bustle and get a good laugh in. Here are 8 funny sales videos that will have you ROFL (That’s rolling on the floor laughing, in case you were curious.)
Sales Therapy by SalesMesh takes a humorous look at the long-standing relationship between sales professionals and their CRM. This hilarious power struggle comes to life when the two parties discuss their problems in a therapist session.
Sales & Marketing Alignment is Easier Than You Think
In far too many companies, sales teams don’t expect marketing to deliver qualified leads, and marketing teams don’t believe sales will follow up with them anyway. Watch as SalesForceUK depicts this all-too-common scenario by showing that marketing and sales don’t have to be best friends, but they can create alignment around common goals.
Monster Tips: Nailing the Handshake
Short. Simple. Sweet. This video by Monster comically shows all the wrong ways to shake hands in a job interview. We think the same rules apply when sales reps meet prospects and customers, too. Well done, Monster.
Sales in Real Life
Sales isn’t always everything it’s dreamed up to be. In our very own funny sales video, a sales professional works his way through the tough, sometimes awkward, and daily struggles in sales.
A Conference Call in Real Life
If you work in sales, you’re no stranger to conference calls. While more convenient than jet-setting across the country every day, there are so many things that frequently go wrong. See if you can relate to these common conference call woes in Tripp and Tyler’s funny video A Conference Call in Real Life.
Sales vs. Marketing Dodgeball
When your sales and marketing teams can’t stand the mere mention of the other, have them battle it out with a good old fashioned game of dodgeball. At least, that’s what Lattice Engines suggests. The following is based on one hot and humid afternoon where the struggle for who was right reached an all-time high.
Selling is Tough – Office Space Humor to Get You Through the Day
Let’s face it, selling can sometimes be tough. In this funny sales video, Sales Scripter pokes fun at all the scenarios sales people are confronted with in a style similar to the movie Office Space.
S*** Sales People Say
Sales people often get caught up saying cheesy things to make a sale. Check out Betts Recruiting’s hysterical interpretation of S*** Sales People Say.
Hopefully, this list of funny sales videos lightens your mood and helps you refocus your energy back on what you do best, which of course is closing sales. Come back and visit us whenever you need a lift in your day or want to burn some calories ROFL.
Immersive training (augmented and virtual reality) is changing fast. It wasn’t long ago that most people thought of these mediums as sparsely- and strictly-used by gamers and tech geeks. Avoid these pitfalls to maximize the value of this emerging tech.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. I decided I was going to be a writer when I was 14 years old and won my first poetry contest. Time passed—lots of time. Like so many writers out there, I relegated my creative ambitions to late nights after a full day at the office. I recognized that most people don’t get to channel their passion into their day jobs, and also that I’ve at least had the fortune to have some really great day jobs.
Still…I could never quite give up on my search for that creative role.
Today, I’m the newest Content Strategist at Unboxed Technology. I work with an amazing team to create scripts, develop storyboards, and even direct my work on set. I made the leap to join the team a little over a month ago, and spoiler alert: I feel exceptionally lucky to be here.
How did I get here? Why did I make the leap? Let me start at the beginning.
I first read about Unboxed Technology in the Richmond Times Dispatch, where they were named one of the best places to work in the city. Richmond BizSense gave them a shout-out as #5 on their 2015 RVA 25. One thing led to another; soon I was perusing their team bios and watching the shorts they produced for the 48-Hour Film Project—I’ve always been a huge fan of the film fest, and these guys participate frequently. (They’re awesome—check out 2012, 2013, and 2015 videos).
This sounded like it could be the career I’d been looking for all my life.
8:30 A.M. Almost to the office. During the interview process, I recognized Unboxed as a place where I could be myself, a company where I could grow, and a group of people I could really make friends with. Now I’m dealing with an acute bout of imposter syndrome. (There’s help for that, by the way: here are 21 tips).
1967, the day Sweden changed from driving on the left side of the road to the right.
Short story: I’m nervous; change is scary.
9 A.M. I meet with the kind, funny HR manager, who helps me through my paperwork and puts me at ease.
Suspiciously at ease, now that I think about it. I’m on to her. The sooner I let my freak flag fly, the sooner they’ll root out whether or not I belong here.
10 A.M. My manager and I have our first onboarding meeting, and her friendly nature and conversation reassures me. We chat about what to anticipate over the next few weeks, and I feel relieved to see what’s expected of me up front: listen, learn, and be vocal when I have thoughts or questions. She introduces me around the office, and I meet the woman I’ll shadow over the next few weeks. Then they take me to lunch.
As we eat, they mention how glad they are I’m here. They’re approachable and down-to-earth.
Perhaps suspiciously down-to-earth.
3 P.M. Our monthly Content meeting falls on my first day. The team gathers around the table, cuts into a red velvet cake, and—what?—opens a bottle of champagne.
They pour me some.
I sit on my hands to keep from texting my friends; the team talks budgets, new initiatives, and upcoming projects.
4:30 P.M. My manager schedules another meeting to recap at the end of the day. She wants to ensure I’m comfortable with all the new information, and seems concerned with how I’m doing in general. I feel well taken care of.
5 P.M. No one’s challenged me to foosball. Yet. Still, I head out smiling.
9 A.M. People continue to stop by to introduce themselves. They ask how I’m doing and whether I need help with anything. I’m good, though—I’ve already found my way to the unlimited snack room. These people love Cheez-Its even more than I do.
10 A.M. I begin shadowing my brilliant and talented colleague, who explains to me what she’s doing, helps debrief me after client calls, and takes an enormous amount of time out of her busy schedule to assist me. I feel I’m learning really quickly with her.
Training side note: shadowing is what’s up; I’m getting comfortable pretty quickly. Also, this is true generosity.
2 P.M. I have a 1:1 meeting with the company’s co-founder. Will he know my name, what I’m doing here, or even have time for me? A: Yes, yes, and yes. He’s friendly and approachable, and it’s interesting to hear more of the company’s backstory as he makes an effort to get to know me better.
4:30 P.M. My manager and I recap again—this is how we end each day. The consistency is a lifeline after long days of meeting people and learning a lot of new information.
When I mention I’m nervous about interacting with clients or an upcoming project, she encourages me, and reminds me she’s confident in her hiring decision. I know she means what she’s saying.
I think I might love her.
5 P.M. No foosball yet. Still leave smiling.
1 P.M. Today is my first full-office team meeting. I know my way around a staff meeting, so I bring my notebook, in order to work on my grocery list, and caffeine, no explanation necessary.
I expect a few boring policy updates, or maybe a silly team-building exercise. Instead, people settle onto beanbags or stretch out on the floor. Team members give peer shout-outs to others they feel have gone above and beyond, and one of our owners talks about the state of the company. If I hadn’t spent so long reading that team bio page, I wouldn’t even know who was in charge.
The discussion is friendly, conversational, and refreshingly transparent. Also, pretty fun. Sometimes I love being wrong…but now I’m over-caffeinated for no good reason, and spend the afternoon talking smack about foosball.
3 P.M. Lose at foosball.
Also, they’re stuck with me now.
Nearing the end of my first month at Unboxed. Here’s my honest opinion: there hasn’t been a bad day. My suspicion has dissipated as I’ve realized this really is a great place to work, even when the work itself is demanding. I feel supported, and I haven’t once second-guessed my decision to join the team.
Even though I lose every time I play foosball, I wouldn’t want anyone to let me win. I came for the challenge—the camaraderie is the proverbial icing on the cake/ice cream social/Waffle Wednesday.
5 P.M. Leave a little frowny. Fridays just aren’t the same; I love my job so much I’m not in a hurry to leave. I’ve been working a long time—I know there’s no perfect job. But maybe this job is the perfect one for me.