Re: Proper use of commas in England?

Subject: Re: Proper use of commas in England?
From: Ian White <Ian -at- IFWTECH -dot- DEMON -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 1995 12:45:45 +0000

Katherine Pyle <kathpyle -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com> writes:

: This question is for anyone with a good knowledge of written English
: *as it is used in England*.

: In the USA, it is currently acceptable to either include or omit a
: comma just before the "and" at the end of a string of named items.
: For example:

: A complete computer package includes a CPU, a keyboard, and a
: mouse.

: A complete computer package includes a CPU, a keyboard and a
: mouse.

: I have been recently told (quite forcefully) that the final comma
: MUST BE OMITTED in documentation that is going to be used in
: England . . . that such a comma is totally UNacceptable there.

: Is this true, or do I just have someone trying to impose his
: personal preference on me?

In British English there is a strong preference to omit the comma
before "and", unless it is helpful or necessary to the interpretation
of the sentence. Thus the comma would be regarded as superfluous in
such a simple sentence as your example.

Even so, "MUST BE OMITTED" and "totally UNacceptable" are putting it
far too strongly. We see a lot of American English here, especially
technical English of course, and the differences are widely accepted.

It's much more important to avoid overtly American spelling, or the
misuse of words such as "pavement" that mean something else in Britain
and the former colonies. (My wife knows this well: she comes from the
USA and now teaches English to the English.)

Ian White | IFW Technical Services, Abingdon, England
| Clear English for high-technology companies

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