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Thread: Serial comma

  1. #1
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Default Serial comma

    "We are someone who cares, is unselfish and willing to lend a helping hand."

    Would proponents of the serial comma put a comma before "and" even in a sentence such as the one above? I'm asking because there's no second "is" before "willing to lend a helping hand."

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Serial comma

    I wouldn't myself object to an additional comma before "willing".

    It's a somewhat queenly sentence.

    Best wishes,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Serial comma

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasmin165 View Post
    "We are someone who cares, is unselfish and willing to lend a helping hand."

    Would proponents of the serial comma put a comma before "and" even in a sentence such as the one above? I'm asking because there's no second "is" before "willing to lend a helping hand."

    Thanks.
    I'd worry more about how "We" ends up with 'cares' and 'is' as verbs.
    "We are people who care, who are unselfish and willing to lend a helping hand."

    "We are someone" is problematic by itself. But you might get away with following that without "we" becoming necessarily singular, e.g:
    "We are someone you can talk to, who can unselfishly lend you a helping hand."
    Last edited by Raymott; 20-Jun-2010 at 08:05.

  4. #4
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Serial comma

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    I wouldn't myself object to an additional comma before "willing".

    It's a somewhat queenly sentence.

    Best wishes,

    MrP
    Why before "willing" and not before "and"?

  5. #5
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Serial comma

    I'd just like to know if putting a comma before "and" in a sentence like the one I provided would be wrong.

    Thank you.

  6. #6
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Serial comma

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasmin165 View Post
    I'd just like to know if putting a comma before "and" in a sentence like the one I provided would be wrong.

    Thank you.
    No, it would be a normal, acceptable serial comma.

  7. #7
    bertietheblue is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Serial comma

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasmin165 View Post
    "We are someone who cares, is unselfish and willing to lend a helping hand."

    Would proponents of the serial comma put a comma before "and" even in a sentence such as the one above? I'm asking because there's no second "is" before "willing to lend a helping hand."

    Thanks.
    Aside from the other comments to the effect that the sentence isn't a very good one, the series is imbalanced: it runs [verb], [verb] and [adjective] - there should be an 'is' before 'willing' or an 'and [who]' before 'is'.

    As for the serial comma, it is used more often in AmEng: many respected style guides in BrEng (Guardian, Times, Economist) are opposed to usage except where there might be ambiguity, eg an additional 'and' in the series; on the other hand, many AmEng style guides (eg Chicago Manual of Style, Follett's Modern American Usage) favour its usage. I suppose that those opposed argue that it is redundant, whilst those in favour argue that it is needed for consistency.

  8. #8
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Serial comma

    Quote Originally Posted by bertietheblue View Post
    Aside from the other comments to the effect that the sentence isn't a very good one, the series is imbalanced: it runs [verb], [verb] and [adjective] - there should be an 'is' before 'willing' or an 'and [who]' before 'is'.

    As for the serial comma, it is used more often in AmEng: many respected style guides in BrEng (Guardian, Times, Economist) are opposed to usage except where there might be ambiguity, eg an additional 'and' in the series; on the other hand, many AmEng style guides (eg Chicago Manual of Style, Follett's Modern American Usage) favour its usage. I suppose that those opposed argue that it is redundant, whilst those in favour argue that it is needed for consistency.
    Wouldn't "and willing to lend a helping hand." be an example of an ellipsis? The "is" is understood; do you really need to repeat it?

    Thanks.

  9. #9
    bertietheblue is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Serial comma

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasmin165 View Post
    Wouldn't "and willing to lend a helping hand." be an example of an ellipsis? The "is" is understood; do you really need to repeat it?

    Thanks.
    Just to rephrase the sentence in simple English, essentially you're asking whether:

    They care, are unselfish and willing to give a helping hand

    is fine because 'are' is understood. My view is that it isn't fine because it's imbalanced. I'd correct it, at least formally, to:

    They care and are unselfish and willing to give a helping hand - here you have both ellision and balance ([verb] + [verb], [adjective] + [adjective]).

    OR

    They care, are unselfish and are willing to give a helping hand - here you have no ellision but balance

    I'd interested to hear what others have to say because I'm always correcting these kinds of structure in legal documents. Hope it's not another case of discovering on this forum that I've probably been p***ing off lawyers for the last 9 years with my overenthusiastic marking!

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