General Question

chelle21689's avatar

What is the right way to use commas when listing items?

Asked by chelle21689 (7907points) October 9th, 2013

This is kind of embarrassing to ask but I’m not sure. Which one is correct?

I like bread, milk, and cheese.
or is it
I like bread, milk and cheese.

This site says that Brits and Americans use it differently. So does that mean either way could be correct?

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15 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m sure the foremost authority on all things comma will be here soon, but I think both ways can be correct. I, personally, would use #1, unless two things go together in a special way. #2, to me, suggests the milk and the cheese belong together.

longgone's avatar

I’ve always used the second version, which is the one I was taught in school.

dxs's avatar

The rules of grammar can get pretty subjective themselves, since they are only there to help people understand a language made many years ago without such rules. Both ways are correct. The only thing you really want to avoid is a comma after the word “and”.
Wrong: bread, milk, and, cheese
Wrong: bread, milk and, cheese
Right: bread, milk(,) and cheese

thorninmud's avatar

The comma used before “and” is often called the “Oxford comma”, because the Oxford University Press style manual requires it. There are good arguments to be made either way, and usage isn’t consistent either in the US or Britain.

The Oxford comma can sometimes avoid ambiguity. The classic example is the book dedication, “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” A valid strategy for American writers would be to not use the Oxford comma unless it helps avoid ambiguity.

JLeslie's avatar

I prefer #1 because it looks more consistent to me, but both are correct. When I was young I don’t remember it being taught both ways. Sometime after I had already graduated from school I began noticing people were leaving out the comma before the and.

ETpro's avatar

I, for one, am in the Oxford Comma school, loving commas, as all must know I do.

chelle21689's avatar

Yes I used the first one until I saw someone write it the other way so I changed my resume to be like the second one. I’m probably going to change it back.
But both are correct?

glacial's avatar

I am a fan of the Oxford comma (which you used in example 1), because not using it makes me imagine things like this.

You will find that some people think that while this illustration is clever, leaving out that last comma will never actually lead to misunderstandings in real life, so we shouldn’t care. They can be rather excitable about it. I still think that any list looks awkward without that comma.

chelle21689's avatar

@glacial I actually saved that photo I found a few months ago! Lol I posted on Facebook too but apparently it wasn’t much of a hit. I thought it was hilarious

ETpro's avatar

@glacial & @chelle21689 Loved that. And I’d never realized before today how HOT Stalin was in a sequined, rip-away g-string.

glacial's avatar

@ETpro I think it sets off the ‘stache nicely.

JamesHarrison's avatar

You can use both way to put commas in between the number of words.

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