We are having a very important debate in the office this morning. My boss is trying to kill the serial comma. Several of us have come out in defense of its survival. According to the uber-professional Rules for Comma Usage (aka the first result that pops up when you Google “comma rules”):
Use a comma to separate the elements in a series (three or more things), including the last two. “He hit the ball, dropped the bat, and ran to first base.” You may have learned that the comma before the “and” is unnecessary, which is fine if you’re in control of things. However, there are situations in which, if you don’t use this comma (especially when the list is complex or lengthy), these last two items in the list will try to glom together (like macaroni and cheese). Using a comma between all the items in a series, including the last two, avoids this problem. This last comma—the one between the word “and” and the preceding word—is often called the serial comma or the Oxford comma. In newspaper writing, incidentally, you will seldom find a serial comma, but that is not necessarily a sign that it should be omitted in academic prose.
My boss is trying to argue the comma before the “and” is not only unnecessary but incorrect, and he’s trying to shift the blame onto some elusive elementary educator named Mrs. Goldsmith.
Not only are we onto him, but we have a secret weapon.
See, she’s the nun that taught me 12th grade English in 5th and 6th grade, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I haven’t had to pick up a grammar book since.
One thought on “Serial Killer”
I’m so glad to hear of your defense of the serial comma. I had a similar debate with a former boss. In the end, he got so sick of my complaints that he left the commas in, even if he didn’t necessarily agree. And by the way, obvious logical arguments aside, the body of scholarly opinion in support of the serial comma is overwhelming.