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  1. monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    #1

    Question RE: Comma After Final Item In List (Question)

    HI folks,

    I have run various searches on this topic and there seems to be much conflicting advice regarding this question. I also looked on this forum but please forgive me if I inadvertently skipped over any such postings!

    Is there a hard and fast rule as to whether or not a writer should place a comma after the final item in a list (as in the following example)?:
    "It was cold, dark and dismal."

    "It was cold, dark, and dismal."

    As you can seen, one example has a comma (after 'dark') and the other does not.

    Personally, I am using the second example for the simple reason that the authors of the books I read tend to follow this very protocol. And also because in the first example, I tend to perceive the final two items as being a 'pair' (ie. the application of the comma implies that 'cold' stands separate from 'dark' and 'dismal') - if you know what I mean.

    Many thanks in advance for any kind assistance offered here . . .
    Last edited by monsterjazzlicks; 04-Jun-2017 at 14:38. Reason: Spelling

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    #2

    Re: Comma After Final Item In List (Question)

    The final comma in a list is variously known as an Oxford or a serial comma. Newspaper editors typically reject it, arguing that it adds unnecessary length to texts. The legislative style guide of the US state of Maine discouraged it, leading to a multi-million dollar court settlement when a law was interpreted differently from how its drafters intended.

    I have the privilege of having had an Oxford comma after the word "Oxford" removed from a text I submitted to a newspaper. The sentence was somewhat mangled as a result.
    I am not a teacher.

  3. monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Comma After Final Item In List (Question)

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    The final comma in a list is variously known as an Oxford or a serial comma. Newspaper editors typically reject it, arguing that it adds unnecessary length to texts. The legislative style guide of the US state of Maine discouraged it, leading to a multi-million dollar court settlement when a law was interpreted differently from how its drafters intended.

    I have the privilege of having had an Oxford comma after the word "Oxford" removed from a text I submitted to a newspaper. The sentence was somewhat mangled as a result.
    Fascinating! Thanks.

    I came up with the theory (and this is obviously wrong and was loosely based upon specific instances) that the reason for the being a serial comma depended on the length of the list. For instance:

    "His tie was bright, dazzling, colourful, cheerful, new, shiny, and knotted."

    In this case, I always thought that when the list was long, the sentence almost cried out for a comma after the penultimate item. Of course this is not correct.

    But in any event, do you feel it is best avoided by the novice?
    Last edited by monsterjazzlicks; 04-Jun-2017 at 15:07. Reason: Spelling

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    #4

    Re: Comma After Final Item In List (Question)

    Novice or not, I'd say it's never wrong to use one after a list of three or more items.
    I am not a teacher.

  5. Piscean's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Comma After Final Item In List (Question)

    It certainly helps to avoid ambiguity in some cases:

    I met the Watsons, Jo and Henry.
    I met the Wasons, Jo, and Henry.


    In the first, it is not clear whether she met the Watsons and Jo and Henry or whether Jo and Henry were the Watsons.

    There is no ambiguitiy in the second.

  6. monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Comma After Final Item In List (Question)

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    It certainly helps to avoid ambiguity in some cases:

    I met the Watsons, Jo and Henry.
    I met the Wasons, Jo, and Henry.


    In the first, it is not clear whether she met the Watsons and Jo and Henry or whether Jo and Henry were the Watsons.

    There is no ambiguitiy in the second.
    Very good example, thank you.

    Yes, that's exactly what I found confusing in many pieces I have read.

  7. monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Comma After Final Item In List (Question)

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Novice or not, I'd say it's never wrong to use one after a list of three or more items.
    Great, I will stick to that model then.

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