Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Straight Dope on the Serial or "Oxford" Comma

"The Straight Dope" highlights common grammatical errors -- so you can stop looking dopey when you do these things incorrectly. :)

Please note: Unless otherwise specified, these are the proper grammar and formatting rules according to Chicago style---the style in which you should be writing, if you're writing fiction---and some nonfiction.  (So don't give me a laundry list of reasons why some other way is correct. It *might be*, in AP style or APA style or MLA formatting . . . but that's not what I'm talking about here.)
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**I'm bringing over some of my series posts from my old blog, so this is a blast-from-the-past post for those of you who have been with me since Wordpress.**
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TO USE OR NOT TO USE THE SERIAL COMMA? THAT IS THE QUESTION

This one comes from something one Write-Brainiac posted on our forum.  (Join us! We're not a cult---I swear!)

Um, what is the serial comma?

The serial comma is the comma used before the conjunction (and, but, or, etc.) in a sentence where there's a list of three of more things.
For example:
I read THE DUFF, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, and GEEKTASTIC: STORIES FROM THE NERD HERD over the holidays.
The comma before the "and" in that sentence is the serial comma.

The above would be the correct way to punctuate the sentence, if you're writing in MLA format or Chicago style.

However, if you're writing in AP style, that comma would be dropped:
I read THE DUFF, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE and GEEKTASTIC: STORIES FROM THE NERD HERD over the holidays.
Them's the rules. Happy punctuating!

The end.

4 comments:

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  2. Okay. So, I suppose I should be putting the comma in before any conjunction then, since I am writing non-fiction--oops. :)

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