Re: Commas in a series

Subject: Re: Commas in a series
From: Sean O'Donnell-Brown <s-odonnell-brown -at- BGU -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 16 May 1994 13:20:15 -0600

>We have an ongoing disagreement in our office as to the proper use of
>commas in a simple series. This IS elementary, I agree, but it is time
>for a definitive answer and I'm turning to you!

>One "camp" follows the AP Stylebook (The flag is red, white and blue.)

>The other holds to The Elements of Style (The flag is red, white, and

>Preferences, please? All comments are welcome. Thanks, Pam

To distinguish between an "and" (or other conjunction) that separates two
items within an element (i.e., two subelements) of a series and the "and"
that separates the penultimate and last elements of the series, we have
agreed to always use a comma before the element-separating conjunction.

Without the comma before the element-level conjunction, situations arise in
which the reader may find it difficult or even impossible to distinguish
subelements from elements. Even temporary confusion, we feel, detracts from
the reading process. Because these situations arise and because we want to
remain consistent, we always use the comma before the element-level
conjunction. In other words, we do it for clarity and consistency.

I could give you an extemporaneous example, but I don't want to embarrass
myself. Take my word for it, without the comma, confusions arise.

On the other hand, I would be very interested to see examples where
including the comma causes confusion. I've never seen or devised such an
example (hence, our "rule"), but I would never presume to think that it can
never happen.

Sean (O'Donnell-Brown)
Writer and Editorial Assistant
Curriculum Publications Clearinghouse/NCRVE-MDS
Macomb, Illinois U.S.A.
sodonnell -at- ccmail -dot- wiu -dot- bgu -dot- edu

(Disclaimer: I do not presume to speak for anyone other than myself.)

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