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Aster's avatar

Does this book title have incorrect punctuation?

Asked by Aster (19949points) January 27th, 2015

By former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee: A new book entitled, “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.” I say there should be no comma after “grits.” Yes or no?

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22 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

Unless “grits and gravy” is meant as a grouping, the comma should definitely be there.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

It was called a “Harvard Comma” when I was in high school. My high school English teacher just two years out of college, she graduated from Mount Holyoke also in Massachusetts.

Jaxk's avatar

Yes the comma should be there.

gailcalled's avatar

Opinions among writers and editors differ on whether to use the serial comma. In American English, a majority of style guides mandate use of the serial comma, including The MLA Style Manual, APA style, The Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual.

The Associated Press Stylebook and the Stylebook published by The Canadian Press for journalistic writing advise against it. It is used less often in British English, but some British style guides require it, including the Oxford University Press style manual.

According to The Oxford Companion to the English Language, “Commas are used to separate items in a list or sequence… Usage varies as to the inclusion of a comma before and in the last item… This practice is controversial and is known as the serial comma or Oxford comma, because it is part of the house style of Oxford University Press.”

Some, including Fowler’s Modern English Usage, use it only where necessary to avoid ambiguity, in contrast to such guides as Garner’s Modern American Usage, which advocate its use to purportedly eliminate the possibility of ambiguity. Yes, no and maybe.

JLeslie's avatar

Both are correct. I personally prefer the comma.

jaytkay's avatar

Amanda found herself in the Winnebago with her ex-boyfriend, an herbalist and a pet detective.

Amanda found herself in the Winnebago with her ex-boyfriend, an herbalist, and a pet detective.

janbb's avatar

@gailcalled Yes, no, and maybe?

Then there is the grammar book which references a panda who either “Eats shoots and leaves,” or “Eats, shoots, and leaves.”

In this instance, I think the comma is a good idea to separate the grits from the gravy even though not technically needed. (Who would want grits in their gravy?)

marinelife's avatar

@janbb It is a staple in the south.

By the way, call me old-fashiioned, but I am a fan of the Oxford comma.

janbb's avatar

@marinelife I know that but I was offering an editorial (in more ways than one) comment. :-)

ibstubro's avatar

I was trained to use the comma before the ‘and’, but years later took some crap for it and dropped using the final comma. Seems more modern, probably because of the AP.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I am also a fan of the Oxford comma. American journals insist that it be taken out, which is irritating; I find that sometimes this forces me to rewrite sentences to make them clearer.

Here is an amusing explanation of one of its purposes.

Here2_4's avatar

Gross! Toast the Oxford Comma, one and all!

filmfann's avatar

Use a comma if you don’t eat your grits with gravy.

gailcalled's avatar

“Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies” by Jarod
Diamond, an American Writer, who uses the Oxford comma.

Strauss's avatar

Like breakfast, I believe it is a personal style choice. I like my bacon, grits, eggs and toast. Gravy would be optional.I decline to use the Oxford comma, unless it is a mandated style (such as a scholarly thesis, or a submission to a peer-review journal.

janbb's avatar

@Yetanotheruser But there are times, as in the panda example I cited, that it can be necessary for clarification. In your example or in the grits and gravy one, I agree it is optional.

Strauss's avatar

@janbb I would also agree with you on that! I guess I’m a minimalist, by nature!

janbb's avatar

An interesting side question is how if the word “grits” were changed to “grit” it might change the comma necessity. I suspect the title is playing a bit on that.

ibstubro's avatar

That’s a good point, @janbb, about grits and grit.

Use commas to separate words and word groups in a simple series of three or more items.

Example: My estate goes to my husband, son, daughter-in-law, and nephew.

Note: When the last comma in a series comes before and or or (after daughter-in-law in the above example), it is known as the Oxford comma. Most newspapers and magazines drop the Oxford comma in a simple series, apparently feeling it’s unnecessary. However, omission of the Oxford comma can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.

Example: We had coffee, cheese and crackers and grapes.

Adding a comma after crackers makes it clear that cheese and crackers represents one dish. In cases like this, clarity demands the Oxford comma.

We had coffee, cheese and crackers, and grapes.

Fiction and nonfiction books generally prefer the Oxford comma. Writers must decide Oxford or no Oxford and not switch back and forth, except when omitting the Oxford comma could cause confusion as in the cheese and crackers example.

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