One of the questions we are asked frequently is whether a comma should go before the conjunction "and" in a series of three or more items. The answer is yes. Although grammar gurus abandoned that comma rule for a while in the twentieth century, we have since realized that using the serial comma (as it is called) is a good idea for two reasons:From Get It Write.
First, it prevents misreading. Consider this sentence, for example:
The menu for the class picnic will feature green beans, stewed apples, macaroni and cheese and okra and tomatoes.
Without the serial comma, the series items are difficult to see. Here is the same sentence with the serial comma added:
The menu for the class picnic will feature green beans, stewed apples, macaroni and cheese, and okra and tomatoes.
With the serial comma, the reader can tell easily that the class ate four different dishes, not five or six, as may have been construed without that last comma. . . .
Here’s another example:
Mrs. Jones left her money to Sally and Fred Smith, Margaret and John Williams, Betty and Harold Spivey and their children.
Without the serial comma, the sentence could be interpreted to mean that only Betty and Harold Spivey’s children would receive a share of the inheritance. With the comma, the sentence would clearly communicate that the children of all three couples were to receive a share:
Mrs. Jones left her money to Sally and Fred Smith, Margaret and John Williams, Betty and Harold Spivey, and their children.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
The Serial Comma
It seems that no one follows this rule anymore: