Re: Items in a Series and Comma Use

Subject: Re: Items in a Series and Comma Use
From: Ken Banks <edits -at- hawaii -dot- rr -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 2006 08:11:31 -1000

Al Geist writes

<<This is one of those battles that will go on forever and never, ever be settled to everyone's liking. For the record, I am an old journalist (among other things) and in our industry, the last comma is not needed.

This, that and the other thing is good.
This, that, and the other thing is not good.

Do both sentences carry the same meaning....yep.>>

I've seen examples in tech writing & editing books in which the absence of the final comma made a big difference . . . (search through books) . . .Ok, Carolyn D. Rude, in her book *Technical Editing,* (Allyn & Bacon 1998) states that "most handbooks" recommend using the final comma. She writes, "The comma is especially important for clarification when one item in the series includes a conjunction. A coordinating conjunction may signal that one of the items in the series has two components as well as signal the end of the series. The comma establishes with certainty that the series is ending. Some readers may stumble over the following sentence.

"Good hygiene, such as sneezing into a tissue, washing hands before handling food and cleaning utensils and cutting boards thoroughly, eliminates most of the risk of transmitting bacteria in food handling."

She acknowledges that the final comma is not used in journalism and advises writers using a journalistic style to structure sentences so as to prevent confusion.


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