Serial commas: Do you, or don’t you?

Whether you drop in a comma before the “and” or “or” in a series might be the most controversial topic among writers. So, get your swords out, because here we go …

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Ragan Insider Content and PR Daily readers seem preoccupied with the serial comma. Several readers of my posts have commented on my use of the serial comma, quoting different style guides and telling me it’s wrong to put a comma before the “and” or the “or” in a list.

Invariably, my response is that I use the serial comma because the style guide I follow says to use it.

I know this is a provocative topic. I can’t think of anything that gets writers and editors more fired up than debating the pros and cons of the serial comma. And, as author Lynne Truss says, “Never get between these people when drink has been taken.”

I have no intention of arguing for or against the use of the serial comma. I only want to point out that the rules for this particular punctuation mark can vary from style guide to style guide. Everybody . . . stay frosty.

The serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma) is the mark that appears before the conjunction in a list. “I don’t want to hear any whining, complaining, or name-calling.” The comma before the “or” is the serial comma.

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