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  1. Junior Member
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    #1

    Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    Recently, I have read about the so-called 'Oxford comma' or 'serial comma'. A lot of people are in favour of using it, but there ale also some who do not use it.

    Personally, I do not use it before the conjunctions such as 'and or 'or' in a series of items unless it causes ambiguity.

    For example,
    1) Payment can be made by cash, cheque or credit card.
    2) I bought bacon, eggs and tomatoes.

    I am curious about your opinion about the use of Oxford comma. Do sentences like the above look wrong without the comma? Could they be ambiguous?


    In his book Practical English Usage, Michael Swan writes that in British English, a comma is not usually used with and between the last two items unless these are long.

    E.g. I spent yesterday playing cricket, listening to jazz records, and talking about the meaning of life.

    I wonder whether this applies to the conjunction 'or' too.

  2. teechar's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    Quote Originally Posted by Natalee92 View Post
    I wonder whether this applies to the conjunction 'or' too.
    I should imagine it does.

  3. Junior Member
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    #3

    Re: Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    While on the topic, can you explain to me why the comma is used before 'and' and 'or' in the following definitions? What is the rule?

    scoff - to laugh at a person or idea, and talk about them in a way that shows you think they are stupid

    scoff - to laugh at someone or something, or criticize them in a way that shows you do not respect them

  4. teechar's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    These are dictionary entries. They are not fully fledged sentences! I don't know what rules you expect to find here. The commas are used in the above for clarity.

  5. Junior Member
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    #5

    Re: Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    Are these commas 'Oxford commas'?

  6. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #6

    Re: Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    People who use the Oxford comma prefer setences with it, but that doesn't mean that things look wrong without it. (I generally use the Oxford comma)

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    #7

    Re: Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    Newspaper and magazine printers used to prohibit Oxford commas in order to save space. Many still do, though the constraints are different nowadays.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #8

    Re: Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    A general rule is to use the Oxford comma when it is needed to prevent misunderstanding. Whether to use it otherwise is a matter of style.

  9. VIP Member
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    #9

    Re: Comma before conjunctions in a list of items

    My general rule is to read the sentence I've just written out loud. If I want to make a pause before the conjunction, I use an Oxford comma, and if I don't, I don't.

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