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crankywithakeyboard's avatar

Series comma: yay or nay?

Asked by crankywithakeyboard (649points) May 12th, 2010

I grew up using the serial comma (example: dogs, cats, and mice) which is used before and/or in a group of words. Then when reading for graduate school, I noticed that lots of the readings did not use it. Then I stopped using it. A peer reviewer of a grad school paper of mine commented that I should be using it. Different sources have given conflicting advice. Where do you stand on this controversial issue?

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16 Answers

Seaofclouds's avatar

It depends on which writing style I am using. There are several writing styles and they each have different rules. Whenever I have assignments due, I make sure to clarify with my instructor which style we are using.

marinelife's avatar

It is optional to use the comma before the and in a series.

mangeons's avatar

I always use a comma before “and” or “or”. I’ve heard it can go either way, and that it doesn’t really matter.

dpworkin's avatar

It’s sometimes called the “Oxford Comma” and it is strictly a matter of style.

the100thmonkey's avatar

I think that whether you should attempt to match the colour of your socks to your blazer is more controversial.

dpworkin's avatar

I understand the shoes need no longer match the bag. That’s a relief, a good idea, a pleasure, and much to have been desired.

Jeruba's avatar

That would be yea (= “yes”) for me.

It is a matter of style, though. Follow the style prescribed for whatever you are doing, or pick one style and stay with it for the duration of the document, the course, the project, your life, or whatever unit seems most applicable.

MacBean's avatar

In my own personal writing I don’t use it because I don’t care for how it looks. However, when I’m writing to communicate with others I use it for clarity and to avoid incidents like this.

perspicacious's avatar

The comma before and or or is best left in in my opinion. Jeruba is correct, either way is allowed but the use should be consistent throughout the document.

YARNLADY's avatar

In personal writing, I am inconsistent, but for formal communications I use The Elements of Style.

SeventhSense's avatar

I, consider, it, a, given. Okay, not seriously in the former sentence, but definitely in a list of colors, monkeys, wrenches, fruit roll ups and widgets.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Jeruba I was expecting an answer from you. I agree with your answer.

absalom's avatar

My guide for this dilemma is this song.

Primobabe's avatar

I’m a big fan of the Oxford comma. It removes ambiguity. Consider this famous book dedication by Teresa Nielsen Hayden:

To my parents, Ayn Rand and God

SeventhSense's avatar

One comma placed differently would certainly change everything.
To my parents Ayn, Rand and God.

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