Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More Perplexing Punctuation

Final comma in a list...use it, or don't use it?



I've always used it, as I think it adds clarity. Others rarely or never use it. I believe I've read somewhere that both are correct, but the latter (omitting it) is preferred.

Just not by me.



Thoughts?

9 comments:

ann_in_grace said...

I never use it in lists. But now you got me thinking...
Anyway, toggling three languages and their rules in memory gets tricky sometimes :)

Kim said...

Do you mean like this?

For dinner, I ate roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots, salad, and fresh bread.

I always use the comma after the last word before "and."

We use Rod and Staff grammar, and that is the way it is taught in that book.

Kelley said...

"The comma before the conjunction is generally required, but it can be omitted if there is no possibility of confusion." (from OWL @ Purdue Univ. - owl.english.purdue.edu/workshops/pp/comma.PPT)

My personal preference is to omit the final comma before the conjunction if the list is a list of items (I bought eggs, milk, cheese and bread.); however, I will use the final comma if it's a series of phrases (I took a shower, got dressed, brushed my teeth, and went to work.)

Make sense?

Phil Johnson said...

The Chicago Manual of Style (like Turabian, only bigger, and used by book publishers) requires the comma. It is essential for clarity's sake in some cases (e.g., "The flavors of the week are strawberry, chocolate, cookies and cream, and pistachio.")--therefore consistency demands it.

The journalistic style favored by magazines and newspapers purposely omits the final comma in a series, however, because every point of line space is vital to them.

thelyamhound said...

Either is correct, according to Strunk & White; it does seem that, in modern parlance, the omission is preferred. I take exception, though. I used to omit the comma, but the magazine for which I now write insists on the final comma if there are more than two items in the list . . . and I have to say, it does make things clearer.

BugBlaster said...

I always use it. I don't need a reason.

Garry Weaver said...

I just throw commas around in my writing in order to deceive the unsuspecting. It makes them think I understand punctuation. However, the pro's, such as yourself and Kim, can easily see through the ruse.

Kim said...

The reason you use it, Buggy, is because you're a homeschool dad, and it's a requirement.

Personally, I think the ommission is a post-modern thing. They're now deconstructing punctuation. It's a conspiracy, you know. :-)

Kelley said...

http://wordwise.typepad.com/blog/

I know you ask about grammar and usage quite a bit, so I thought I'd point you to this blog that I stumbled across today. You might enjoy it.