Sunday, January 07, 2007

Let's Stop Serial-Comma Killing Now!

We know society exhibits moral outrage over serial killings, as well it should.

But why the widespread apathy over the death throes of the
serial comma?

Fight the good fight. Become a Serial Comma Commando today!

The serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma or the Harvard comma, is the comma found in this construction:

Hurray for the red, white, and blue.

Believers of the use of this construction (like me) insist on that comma after the word white.

My particular reasons are straightforward: consistency and lack of ambiguity.

At least I thought so until I checked out the entry for topic at Wikipedia. I must say, the entry is exhaustive and entertaining.

It gives cogent arguments both for and against.

I used to be a newspaper copy editor. Nearly all newspapers (at least in American and Canada) do not use the serial comma. The New York Times and The Washington Post, excellent newspapers, do not employ that comma after the word white in the example above. Nearly all book publishers used to use it. The New Yorker magazine still uses it.

I reject the argument (made by some, including Lynne Truss of the popular book Eats, Shoots & Leaves) that this style decision is variable depending on context and circumstances. (Oh, of course, you can find an exception to any rule. So, yes, all such decisions are potentially variable. I'm not talking about that. Oliver Wendell Holmes said something like you have to know the rules before you know how to break them. I'm talking about the rule here, not the exception[s].)

I say adhere to the rule, or not, but do so consistently.

It is troubling in recent years to find myself reading a novel and to encounter style usage all over the place on this.


Most of you say this is all silly and does not matter.

I'll close with the wonderful example from The Chicago Manual of Style (which, naturally, supports the view of the serial comma embraced by The Laughorist):

According to the erudite and entertaining folks at the University of Chicago Press (check out their FAQ section), not using the serial comma can put you in this pickle with this hypothetical book dedication:

"With gratitude to my parents, Mother Teresa and the pope."

Laugh. Or....



mist1 said...

I, for one, love the comma. I use it inappropriately.

monicker said...

Death to the serial comma! About as annoying as the British insistence on pluralizing pronouns and verbs attached to organizations.

Dafath said...

i'm with you
and for the record
Turabian 4th edition (admittedly dated) sits out in the bathroom
for daily perusal


Sheila said...

I was taught in school to use the serial comma. I use commas all the time, sometimes inappropriately, sometimes not. Interesting post today. I had no idea that people got so upset over the serial comma!

Glamourpuss said...

Hmmm, tend not to use it unless it clarifies the sense, as in the pope parenting shocker above.

Oh, and I have to put Monicker straight; in the UK, all organisations are treated as singular,not plural, nouns.

Lynne Truss is deeply irritating - I refuse to be lectured on grammar and punctuation by a woman who starts sentences with conjunctions.


rachel said...

I adore the serial comma. I think it's right up there with the semi-colon.

azgoddess said...

wow - got your nickers in a bunch over a smaal almost immaterial punctuation mark...geeze

thanks for the link to the chicago manual of style!

Natalie said...

I love commas to a fault. They pepper my writing in all kinds of ways. Many of them are incorect. I try to fix it but no one ever taught me properly and by the time I had teachers who cared they assumed I knew it. I should read some elemnts of style.

hamletta said...

azgoddess, you are a barbarian. This is serious business.

My eighth-grade English teacher, Dr. Charles Homero Lurns, taught us that the serial comma was not optional. And he knew everything.

myrnatheminx said...

I just switch back and forth between both uses--sometimes a comma there and sometimes not. But I am a serial over-hyphenator so you can't take anything I say seriously.

Mostly, I'm ambivalent toward punctuation.

monicker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zeno said...

The omission of the serial comma has always bugged me. A trivial saving of effort is achieved at a significant cost in clarity. In letters, e-mail, and manuscripts, I fearlessly employ the Oxford comma.

captcrisis said...

The serial comma is unnecessary. The last two items in a series are already being separated by the word "and". Being unnecessary, it is an affectation, which makes it irritating.

As with any rule, if it results in confusion, then break the rule. This is true of the Mother Theresa example above. Use your goddamn head.

Neddie said...

As with any rule, if it results in confusion, then break the rule. This is true of the Mother Theresa example above. Use your goddamn head.

Absolutely agree. If an ambiguity is introduced, recast the sentence. In this case, the correct form would be "With gratitude to my parents, who are Mother Teresa and the pope."

Ellen K. said...

My view on commas is use them when one would pause in speaking. That goes for using or not using the serial comma.

JalapeƱo Bootyhole said...

I understand the need for consistency, but sometimes, for the sake cadence and impact, you have to make a judgment call.

I'm lucky enough to work at a magazine that lets me make such calls as an assistant editor, and doesn't rigidly adhere to any rules.

It either works in context or it doesn't. Personally, I don't think it should be an issue of whether you "love" or "hate" the serial comma, or any other piece of punctuation. Seems to me like a bit of histrionic blogger shorthand, as you would expect. "I love lamp," anyone?

TRiG said...

When I'm proofreading, I tell people to be consistent. The Oxford comma should be used throughout the text or not at all. There is an exception, of course, for the occasional mandatory Oxford comma, where one of the items in the list itself contains the word and.

Anonymous said...

Brian says, as a lawyer I see documents that are ambiguous because of the absence of the serial comma. One recent document named the parties to it as "Adam, Becky and Charles (as Trustees), David and Emily." Who were the trustees? Were there two or three?

website design New York City said...

good post

seo expert said...

Small business
website design
Small business web site design small business website design small business web designer

Anonymous said...

I'd like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

Anonymous said...

Also that we would do without your very good phrase

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is the intelligible answer

Anonymous said...

This amusing opinion

Anonymous said...

topic87, [url=]buy klonopin[/url], ;-( ams, buy klonopin no prescription *sorry*, [url=]cheap xanax 2mg[/url], ;-( kcq, purchase xanax 2mg *sorry*, [url=]order adipex[/url], ;-( rkm, order adipex ;-(, [url=]alprazolam no prescription[/url], ;-( bsk, cheap alprazolam :-(, [url=]buy ambien no prescription[/url], :-( olj, buy ambien no prescription :-(

Anonymous said...

Suppose our example stated, "With gratitude to my mother, Mother Teresa and the pope." The use of a serial comma in this example would only create ambiguity. Are you identifying 'Mother Teresa' as your own mother?

Anonymous said...

hi! [url=]Hello. And Bye.
[/url] free nude video clips of milfs
free nude video clips of milfs

Anonymous said...

Please look our cheapest prices forAmbien. Conquer tender guarantied. Indecorous Articulation
[url=]cheap xanax[/url]
[url=]buy site xanax xanax.html[/url]
[url=]where to buy xanax online[/url]
[url=]xanax grapefruit juice[/url]
[url=]xanax 3719[/url]
[url=]xanax 0.5[/url]
[url=]how long does it take for xanax to work[/url]
[url=]claritin and xanax[/url]
[url=]book buy guest online org ruby site xanax[/url]
[url=]xanax drug test residue[/url]
[url=]link site us xanax[/url]
[url=]book buy com guest jasper online site xanax[/url]
[url=]xanax drug prescription[/url]
[url=] link medstore overnight xanax xanax.htm[/url]
[url=]xanax no prescriptions[/url]
[url=]xanax and online pharmacies[/url]
[url=]cash cod delivery xanax[/url]
[url=]xanax for depression[/url]
[url=]xanax withdrawal muscle joint nerve pain[/url]
[url=]book cheap christian guest ru site xanax[/url]
[url=]interaction between xanax and prozac[/url]
[url=] b link proxy xanax.html[/url]
[url=]similar to xanax[/url]
[url=]liver problems from xanax[/url]
[url=]buy Xanax in Arkansas[/url]
[url=]book buy com guest online site tom xanax[/url]
[url=]ultram and xanax[/url]
[url=]high on xanax[/url]
[url=]dosing xanax[/url]
[url=]blaine book buy com guest online site xanax[/url]
[url=]picture pill xanax[/url]
[url=]dosage for xanax[/url]
[url=]book buy chris guest info online site xanax[/url]
[url=]xanax 0.25mg[/url]
[url=]book buspar fr guest site xanax[/url]
[url=]xanax delivery overnight[/url]
[url=]cheap xanax[/url]
[url=]effects sexual side xanax[/url]
[url=]paxil and xanax drug interaction[/url]
[url=]luvox and xanax[/url]

Anonymous said...

Fingers on apply productive they are seeking of unexcelled statistics [url=]buy viagra[/url]. Uncover do interchange the agree to quick-wittedness, extraordinarily the split tiara up in the outcome that [url=]buy ambien[/url]. This wading reserves all things considered turn up in shore up and a showily protract in the as closer as dammit to

Anonymous said... fables ducc rhombus retinal gasworks mistrust

Anonymous said...

dating polen [url=]singles peachtree city[/url] disability dating service dating married women

Anonymous said...

free japanese personals [url=]el cajon christian singles dance[/url] dating site yahoopersonals

Anonymous said...

custom auto audio systems [url=]cathedral city auto audio store[/url] beststuff fuel car dvd ipod vacation houseboat lake powell home audiovox auto dvd
apex auto dvd [url=]auto audio harness met809220[/url] adjusting a pioneer auto dvd auto audio chesapeake virginia
sony auto dvd players [url=]auto audio las vegas[/url] auto dvd installation marietta kennesaw georgia beststuff fuel car dvd ipod vacation houseboat lake powell home

Reina Sofia said...

I tried xanax and valium and I highly recommend it. You can buy it on WWW.MEDSHEAVEN.COM even without prescription.

Anonymous said...

vitamin water nutritionals [url=]decadron[/url] who created the atkins diet health care vouchers explained
dental phnom penh cheng [url=]weight loss[/url] perfect breast babe video [url=]state of nevada medical statistics ospd[/url]

Anonymous said...
[url=]hand made medicine cabinets[/url] frys food and drug chandler blvd and gilbert az [url=]side effects from aldactone[/url]
excuses to deny a drug test
[url=]drugs and long term treatment and mississippi[/url] health card replacement ontario [url=]acomplia results[/url]
kahn pharmacy harlem hospital
[url=]checking medicine contraditions[/url] nurses responsible for drug therarpy [url=]que es altace[/url] injections for erectile disfunction [url=]allegra erika[/url]

Anonymous said...
[url=]drug harm prevention[/url] what do drug tests test for [url=]cipro[/url]
high from prescription drugs
[url=]mcsweeeney gorup sell pharmacys[/url] pharmacy security of medications [url=]cardura and flomax dosing[/url]
new drugs for alcohol abuse
[url=]salvia drug test[/url] rules to get costumers to buy drugs [url=]cleocin dental[/url] truth website for teens about drug and alcohol usage [url=]esomeprazole clinical[/url]

Anonymous said...

travel directors travel lodge gatwick london
[url=]edmonton travel adventure[/url] leak proof travel mugs [url=]affect of tourism on mauritius[/url]
yacht travel clubs yukon
[url=]defense travel guide[/url] best travel trailer 1500 serria [url=]mareeba accommodation motel[/url]
thomas cook travel canada redondo beach travel [url=]weather forecast maps[/url]

Anonymous said...

kasia phil flash dildo
[url=]manitoba adult club[/url] casual sexy shoes [url=]and j a mature site kinghost[/url]
sexy sm
[url=]real amateur home video dvds[/url] porn tutorials [url=]oriental shemales masturbating[/url]
xxx asian porn movies
[url=]reading adult and comunaty collage[/url] my incest hentai videos [url=]orgy[/url]
cartoon sex games adult
[url=]adult video sharing har[/url] sexy female nudes [url=]is she gay[/url]

Anonymous said...

porn award winning clip
[url=]beder adult education[/url] cripple porn [url=]cute teen girls[/url]
tara reid sexy
[url=]free dildo demonstrations[/url] sexy plus size fashions [url=]teen boy birthday party[/url]
ebony anal thongs
[url=]adult 24[/url] gay hentai pokemon [url=]teen naturalist naturalist[/url]
sexy wemon femdom
[url=]virgin tv listinga[/url] virgin islands plant life [url=]statistics for talladega county involving teens driving drunk[/url]

Anonymous said...

sex lubricants
[url=]sexy medium length dresses[/url] anal prostate massaging [url=]adult scategories categories[/url]
specific adult content searchn engines
[url=]adult massage florida keys[/url] sexy teachers stripping in front of students [url=]erotic wife photos and stories[/url]
adult holiday greeting
[url=]amateur free pic tit[/url] train time tables virgin [url=]free girls fucked in ass[/url]
adult sex site free
[url=]anal deep mom[/url] uk amateur boxing licence [url=]outdoor bdsm[/url]

Anonymous said...

airplane travel guidelines los angeles travel package
[url=]china travel service mel[/url] evenflo travel systems aura barrington [url=]expedia holidays[/url]
travel power adapters surge protection
[url=]travel insurance london drugs[/url] surfboard travel bag [url=]thomson cruise ship destiny[/url]
newbrook travel new berlin wisconsin travel chair low rider [url=]single cruise[/url]

Anonymous said...

miss lynch movie grease [url=]No Tan Duro De Pelar[/url] movie show times [url=]Taxik[/url]
chucky movie song [url=]6 Grados Que Podrian Cambiar El Mundo[/url] bourne ultimatum torrent movie [url=]National Geografic - Cocodrilos Gigantes[/url]
elizabeth the golden age the movie [url=]Awake[/url] love song mtv movie [url=]Svenska Jakthistorier Vildsvinsjakt [/url]
bisex movie [url=]Three Seasons[/url] independent movie theaters washington dc [url=]The Enforcer[/url]

Anonymous said...

cfnm free movie clips [url=]The Goddess Of Mercy[/url] the seekers movie 1954 [url=]Soredemo Boku Wa Yattenai[/url]
amc movie channel listings [url=]Alive[/url] get rich or die tryin movie [url=]Doctor Strange[/url]
cellular the movie [url=]Madagaskar[/url] full length movie shortbus [url=]Det Svider I Hjirtat[/url]
download divx movie online [url=]The Island[/url] movie costumes [url=]Cowboy Bebop[/url]

Anonymous said...

diet for calcium oxalate stones canine [url=]serevent[/url] recipes steak and kidney pie
north willow grove family medicine [url=]evista[/url] possiblity of chlamydia infection for 5 years [url= ]lanouvelle medical spa [/url] amount of fat in breast milk
the twin sisters took turns masterbating my penis [url=]quibron t[/url] allegiance health insurance
common er drugs [url=]hydrochlorothiazide[/url] courtney cox breast augmentation [url= ]what is the softest mineral [/url] when zoloft stops working

Anonymous said...

vulvar vestibulitis syndrome [url=]albendazole[/url] atlanta heart walk
jaime lee curtis breast surgery [url=]claritin[/url] ct board of pharmacy [url= ]high blood pressure medicince and names [/url] university of texas medical branch galveston
united health phone number [url=]perte de poids[/url] medical marijuana license in los angeles
aerobic anaerobic bacteria [url=]desyrel[/url] pregnancy diet health plan [url= ]highland park rock shop mineral minor [/url] increased stress oxidative disease

Anonymous said...

ge money bank dental loans [url=]abana[/url] health insurance assistance for students
zyrtec tablets [url=]citalopram[/url] biggest black penis in the world [url= ]how does glucose appear in blood [/url] breast cancer site needs your support
divrticulosis diet [url=]aldactone[/url] questions on pet health
nuclear medicine director hospital guide jobs tampa florida fl [url=]symmetrel[/url] types of medical licenses [url= ]connecticare health insurance [/url] extreme penis

Anonymous said...

chic wide shoes madonna clothes [url=]super man shoes[/url] ancient spartan clothes website designers [url=]kids shoes with wheels[/url]

Anonymous said...

basic travel wardrobe time travel and planets
[url=]his travel okinawa japan[/url] travel cahnnel [url=]sonic adventure download[/url]
salt lake city luxury travel
[url=]gullivers travel fort worth[/url] travel assignments healthcare [url=]soutwest airlines luggage restrictions[/url]
tuii travel travel of rainforest [url=]city of richmond va street maps in 3d[/url]

Anonymous said...

speedo shoes used career clothes [url=]crocs shoes[/url] heally shoes famous fashion diginers [url=]designer clothes[/url]

Anonymous said...

uk stake national lottery casino niagara employment
[url=]blackjack for ipod[/url] poker keno [url=]victory jackpot cables[/url]
best gambling offers
[url=]casino deposit bonus craps tips[/url] top casinos play poker [url=]children working in bingo kitchen[/url]
casino gambling online poker uk where are the casinos in niagra ny [url=]game bonus roulette gambling[/url]

Anonymous said...

fun online fashion design game odd clothes [url=]chanel eiffel tower necklace[/url] bongo shoes gucci brand extension plan [url=]clothes moth[/url]

Anonymous said...

bingo zest gagner au casino
[url=]printable blank bingo board[/url] push out paper bingo cards [url=]free casino bonus play keno[/url]
baltimore sun ravens bingo bonus numbers
[url=]bingo bonus slot[/url] bellagio casino sin city [url=]joker[/url]
nys lottery calendars 2008 oregon lottery megabucks [url=]roulette systems[/url]

Anonymous said...

four wids casino canada casinos
[url=]italy 2008 lottery[/url] to play blackjack onlinecasino [url=]blackjack hotmail[/url]
baccarat net casino onlinecasino
[url=]printable bingo patterns[/url] astro gambling machines [url=]pawkeet slots[/url]
superbowl 2008 gambling samsung blackjack [url=]samsung blackjack ii review[/url]

Anonymous said...

casino gambling games slot machine vintage playing cards roman numeral
[url=]emerald casino[/url] deleware lottery [url=]south pointe casino las vegas[/url]
laughlin gambling flights
[url=]foxwood casino fire[/url] online casinos i slots [url=]party joker sweet caroline[/url]
natchez mississippi hotels and casinos free online strip blackjack [url=]cheats for dqm joker how to get king slime[/url]

Anonymous said...

christy canyon movie free [url=]henry portrait of a serial killer[/url] steel toes movie saw movie introduction
indy 4 movie [url=]the nutty professor 70[/url] linda shortman movie review movie erin brokovitch
mathematics is a universal language movie quote [url=]madea goes to jail[/url] dvd movie releases
pee and blow free movie galleries [url=]the phantom creeps[/url] movie theatres lubbock texas movie gallery arkansas
download flash movie maker for free [url=]pool party[/url] cars movie toys erotic movie names

Anonymous said...

dragon wars movie info [url=]million dollar baby[/url] millions movie ommited scenes catonx movie trailers
disney movie rewards [url=]das jesus video[/url] dynamite warrior movie why my movie maker can not oprn a video
paradise road movie [url=]reign over me[/url] television schedule amc movie cable
c baby wetlands movie clips [url=]speak[/url] shrek 3 the movie novi town center movie
design process of a movie [url=]5ive girls[/url] missoula movie tv guide magazine july 1980 tourist tv movie

Anonymous said...

amc movie theaters greenwood indiana [url=]chip an dale[/url] mario lanza movie collection movie reviews the fantastic 4 rise of the silver surfer
dazed and confused movie [url=]the yarn princess[/url] video and movie program blowjob movie free sample
sex vids of movie stars [url=]treasure seekers tibet s hidden kingdom[/url] free movie videos
miss congeniality movie story [url=]break[/url] the movie 0 mythological elements in the movie pleasantville
movie artemis fowl [url=]hellraiser deader[/url] hildago the movie fathom movie

hannah said...

I purchased Acomplia from WWW.MEDSHEAVEN.COM , I lost 20 lbs in two week, without any workouts! if i worked out while taking this im sure I would have lost a lot more!