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  1. #1
    cowgirl007 Guest

    Question Comma before 'and'

    When is it appropriate to put a comma before the word 'and'? I always thought this was a definite no-no, but I am trying to settle a debate.

    Can anyone advise? Many thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Comma before 'and'

    Hello Cowgirl

    It's always correct to put a comma before "and" where ambiguity would otherwise ensue:

    1. I want to thank my parents, Sam and Dave.

    Unless you are indeed the result of some curious monosexual coupling, change to:

    1a. I want to thank my parents, Sam, and Dave.

    Elsewhere, there are two schools of thought. School A says that where the last term of a list is introduced by "and", it is redundant to put a comma before that "and". Thus School A prefers:

    2. I bought some apples, pears and oranges.

    School B on the other hand thinks that the comma before "and" denotes a pause, and is therefore not redundant. Thus School B prefers:

    2a. I bought some apples, pears, and oranges.

    (For some reason, lists of fruits are obligatory in this particular debate.)

    In British English, School A is predominant, especially in newspapers and magazines. However, some academic publishers (notably Oxford University Press; whence this comma's name, the "Oxford comma") belong to School B.

    MrP

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    Default Re: Comma before 'and'

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    Hello Cowgirl

    It's always correct to put a comma before "and" where ambiguity would otherwise ensue:

    1. I want to thank my parents, Sam and Dave.

    Unless you are indeed the result of some curious monosexual coupling, change to:

    1a. I want to thank my parents, Sam, and Dave.

    Elsewhere, there are two schools of thought. School A says that where the last term of a list is introduced by "and", it is redundant to put a comma before that "and". Thus School A prefers:

    2. I bought some apples, pears and oranges.

    School B on the other hand thinks that the comma before "and" denotes a pause, and is therefore not redundant. Thus School B prefers:

    2a. I bought some apples, pears, and oranges.

    (For some reason, lists of fruits are obligatory in this particular debate.)

    In British English, School A is predominant, especially in newspapers and magazines. However, some academic publishers (notably Oxford University Press; whence this comma's name, the "Oxford comma") belong to School B.

    MrP
    very interesting Mr P.

    In Australia, at least in an academic context, I have always found School A very much in ascendency. However, in reviewing a thesis today I came across school B from someone who is usually greamatically excellent.

    I googled and found this entry. From memory (and this may be suspect) original Fowler's agrees with school A. Personally I find ", and" awkward and unwieldy- but probably only through experience.

  4. #4
    Ann1977 is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Comma before 'and'

    In Boston, this "serial comma" is called the "Harvard comma," and it is (or at least was) taught as mandatory in the Boston Public Schools (or at least in Latin School) (or at least in Miss Ellison's English class!)

    Oddly, Harvard's style manual does not use the Harvard comma, but there are plenty of prestigious defenders of both schools of thought, and good arguments on both sides:
    Serial comma - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I liked PA's fusion approach -- "I'll use it when I feel like it! If it helps, fine; if not, no way."

    But Wiki makes a case that it is this very absence of a universal standard that can cause some ambiguity.

  5. #5
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    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Comma before 'and'

    I think commas, like breathing in opera, should be left to the singer to decide. To hell with rules.

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    Ann1977 is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Comma before 'and'

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    I think commas, like breathing in opera, should be left to the singer to decide. To hell with rules.
    Right on, Brother!

    Power to the people!



    Would you mind explaining this to Miss Ellison?

    I . . . err . . . I for some reason don't quite feel up to doing it myself . . . .

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    Default Re: Comma before 'and'

    Strunk, William, Jr. 1918. The Elements of Style

    This should explain everything.

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