Serial Comma Vindication

Serial Comma Vindication
For four years now I’ve had British and Australian people correct me when I write things like “I had bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast.” They all omit the second comma in the list. Even the Snook told me he was taught it that way in school. Now I have conclusive proof that my way is correct though! I will never again cave in to comma-omitting pressure.

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  1. you know, i was about to join you in my own vindication excitement, but now i can’t remember how i do it! off to look at old blog entries… 😉

  2. We actually celebrated “God Bless the Comma Week” in my high school, and we were all taught to put a comma between all items in a series — including before the “and.” People have tried to tell me that’s wrong, and I never understood what the hell they were thinking. Aha!

  3. Cool, I never knew that. Like the Snook, in primary school we’d get a big red cross marked on our homework for including commas before ‘and’. I also learnt recently that it’s not ‘alright’ but ‘all right’ – so I feel like a total tool now 🙂

  4. You have made me so happy.

  5. Good to know the I’ve been ‘right’ all along 😉

  6. I always end up arguing this when I edit peoples’ papers!! They always claim that both are right, but I never bought it. The need for that second comma makes total sense when you think of the comma = pause rule.

  7. To be fair that article only quotes American grammar authorities and not British or Australian ones.

    I’ve just checked a couple of my British grammar books and they say that a comma before the ‘and’ is optional. They think it should definitely be there if it helps avoid amiguity or if the things in the list are long phrases themselves but they don’t mandate it like the American books do.

    So it’s not wrong in British English (and I’d guess in Australian English too) to miss the comma out or to put it in but it does seems to be wrong to miss the comma out in American English. So you can be right all the time by keeping your commas in 🙂

  8. Very interesting — it surprised me to hear people were taught to leave it out… I’d always learned the “if needed for pause / clarity” rule, then when I took proofreading course we used Chicago Manual…

  9. Hey, if you found that interesting, why not get a copy of “Eats Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss. It was number one on the UK hardback book list recently, and it is the funniest review of punctuation I have ever read. (Ok, so it’s the only punctuation book I have read since school!)

    And, she points out the comma-pause rule as an Atlantic divide issue too. (She is British)

  10. Yeah, I’ve got it (though haven’t had a chance to read it yet!) Recommend “The Transitive Vampire” as well to anyone looking for more interesting grammar / punctuation book… Hmm… not sure how much I want to admit to a passion for punctuation!

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