Opinion: serial commas

CommaI have a confession to make: I haven’t put together a style guide for posts I make on this blog. The consistency of style leaves a lot to be desired. It’s time to take my own advice and develop a style sheet.

And I would be very interested to receive your opinions on what you would like to see. Do you prefer a certain style? Do you find some style choices distract you or make the content harder to understand?

I’m going to start with punctuation and perhaps one of the most controversial of style differences – the serial comma. The serial comma is also referred to as the Oxford comma or the Harvard comma.

The serial comma is the comma that follows the penultimate item in a list of three or more things and comes before the and or or:

I like cake, biscuits, and ice cream.

I don’t think it is necessary there. It isn’t serving a meaningful purpose (in my opinion). The sentence could be punctuated as below and make perfect sense:

I like cake, biscuits and ice cream.

However, I would use a serial comma here:

The restaurant serves chocolate cake, cookies and ice cream, and mango sorbet.

My preference is to only use serial commas when they help to avoid ambiguity. But what do you think? Please vote in the poll below and/or leave a comment. Thank you!

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9 thoughts on “Opinion: serial commas

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