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    #1

    Generally speaking ... always

    In The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2nd ed.), Bryan Garner writes: "The serial comma, or terminal separator, which is placed before the conjunction and or or, can prevent ambiguity. Generally speaking, it is always included in formal writing and often omitted in informal writing."

    If the author is speaking generally, there must be exceptions to the use of the serial comma in formal writing -- in other words, the serial comma isn't always used in that kind of writing. Garner seems to be contradicting himself. Do you agree?

    Thanks!

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Generally speaking ... always

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen165 View Post
    In The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2nd ed.), Bryan Garner writes: "The serial comma, or terminal separator, which is placed before the conjunction and or or, can prevent ambiguity. Generally speaking, it is always included in formal writing and often omitted in informal writing."

    If the author is speaking generally, there must be exceptions to the use of the serial comma in formal writing -- in other words, the serial comma isn't always used in that kind of writing. Garner seems to be contradicting himself. Do you agree?

    Thanks!
    I take your point that using "Generally speaking" and "always" to refer to the same usage is somewhat hypocritical. I wouldn't necessarily say that it's a complete contradiction though.

    You can find exceptions to pretty much every rule ever made. I'm quite certain that we could all find instances of formal writing where the serial comma has not been used, and of informal writing where it has. I would say that by using "generally speaking", he is simply covering all the bases. When you're talking about other people's usage of something, it's just not possible to be completely black and white about it. It would be impossible to say that everyone writing formally always uses the serial comma etc.

    I agree that he could have chosen his words more wisely.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 08-Jun-2011 at 00:29. Reason: General edit

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