Do you use the serial comma?

March 10, 2007 12:17pm CST
The serial comma is the comma that comes before a conjunction in a series of three or more items. I do not understand, however, why most people don't use it. The serial comma reduces ambiguity. It helps prevent needless confusion. Let's take this as an example: To my parents, Ayn Rand and God Without the serial comma, the phrase is confusing. Is the dedication addressed to two parents, one named Ayn Rand and the other God? Or is it addressed to three entities, namely, namely, the writer's parents, Ayn Rand, and God? Considering how helpful the serial comma is, I've always wondered why I frequently find it missing. What about you? Do you use the serial comma, too?
2 people like this
6 responses
• United States
23 Apr 07
I definitely use the serial comma in my own writing. I've seen others who do not, however. My boss, for example, often takes it out of his writing. I've never asked him why he does that. I agree with you that it reduces ambiguity, and really ought to be used more often.
@jolmartyn (133)
12 Apr 07
Sure the serial comma is a useful tool to have up one's sleeve. But if you are putting it in to reduce ambiguity, there is probably ambiguity in the first place. One has to realise that you may know how to use it as a writer - but your reader may be completely flummoxed by it. No, I think you need to rely on a good choice of words. The sense of what you write should then become apparent then.
@betchai (141)
• Philippines
12 Apr 07
The use of serial comma has been taught to us since we were graders. Although some don't use it, it's better that we use it for easy understanding of sentences. There is no specific rule that concerns using a comma before the word "and" in a series of words (e.g. To my parents, Ayn Rand and God). Some experts say there's no difference between using and not using a comma before the word "and." It doesn't affect the syntax, even the meaning of sentences. For me, maybe it depends on the sentences. Some sentences are understandable without a comma, while others are not.
@ninong (110)
• Philippines
9 Apr 07
Actually, I do not use the serial comma because I'm confused with it myself. I was trained as a student not to put commas before conjunctions. so, since my grammar is actually checked by "what is right in my eyes". To keep things simple, I just changed the sentence constructions in order to avoid confusion and ambiguity.
@krayzee (1161)
• Romania
7 Apr 07
I know that the English language has a comma before a conjunction. However my native language doesn't. Actually in my language a comma before a conjunction is considered a huge mistake. Given that you may imagine I'm not used to commas before conjunctions, I even tend to see them as "evil". I do try to put it into English when I remember but in the majority of times the habit takes control and I put no comma :) Will try to be more careful from now on though :)
• United States
10 Mar 07
No becase i come here to relax not to wory about my spelling or my gramma !it is good you are concerned about it but myself well i have to admit i just dont care !