Re: Commas in a series

Subject: Re: Commas in a series
From: Steve Fouts <sfouts -at- ELLISON -dot- TI -dot- COM -dot- >
Date: Mon, 16 May 1994 13:32:27 CDT

Pam North says:
|} 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
|} blue.)
|} Preferences, please? All comments are welcome. Thanks, Pam

What you first need to agree on is the need for consistency within your group.
Once you have agreed to that, and agreed that consistency is more important
than your petty preferences, then you're half way there.

Now. In technical documentation you might, on exceedingly rare occasions,
come across things like, ``the wires, in order are, white, blue and green,
and yellow.'' In a series such as this you may want it to be painfully clear
that blue and green are a unit, that there are three, not four wires.

It is for this reason, and this reason only that the Harper Dictionary of
Contemporary Usage says that it (the comma before and), ``has been
abandoned by newspaper copyeditors, but is still retained by editors
of textbooks and reference books.''

And that is why the Associated Press book leaves it out, and why you
might wish to consider leaving it in, just in case...
_______________ _____
/ ___ __/__\ \ / / _\ Steve Fouts
/___ \| | ___\ | / __\ sfouts -at- ellison -dot- sc -dot- ti -dot- com
/ / \ | \ / \
/_______/__|_______\_/________\ "These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper,
but _minds_ alive on the shelves." -- Gilbert Highet

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