MURDER IN THE AIR! BEWARE THE SERIAL COMMA!
Commas are constantly overused, underused, and misplaced. In my opinion, commas are one of the most important punctuation marks we have!
Read these two sentences and notice the difference a comma makes: Let’s eat grandma! Let’s eat, grandma! COMMAS SAVE LIVES!
Have you heard about the dreaded serial comma? No, it’s not a serial killer, but it has been known to cause rifts between friends, co-workers and even countries.
The serial comma is very much in use in American English. My go-to reference book, The Chicago Manual of Style, recommends using it. In British English (think Canada) it is much less common.
The serial or series comma (also called the Oxford comma) is placed immediately before the final conjunction in a list of three or more items (usually and, or, nor). The main argument against using the serial comma is, if the list contains only single words, leaving it out doesn’t change anything.
Here is a sentence where the serial comma definitely helps to keep the meaning clear:
I made a variety of sandwiches for the luncheon: egg salad, chicken salad, peanut butter and jelly, and ham and cheese.
What are your thoughts on the serial comma? Do you use it in all your writing, or only when you feel it’s absolutely necessary? Are you passionate about the serial comma, or do you just not care? I want to hear what you have to say…