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    #1

    Commas in a series

    I am proofreading a document and would like to confirm that a comma was omitted.

    These are yellow squash, collard, bell pepper, lima bean, eggplant, pumpkin and tomato.

    I think a comma should be placed after pumpkin -- am I correct? Thanks!


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    #2

    Re: Commas in a series

    In this instance, no, I would leave the sentence as it stands since it is a list of items.

  1. rewboss's Avatar

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    #3

    Re: Commas in a series

    You're looking for the "Oxford comma" which, despite its name, is more common in the US than in Britain.

    Opinion is divided on the Oxford comma. Some say it is always necessary, some say it should never be used, but I think most would agree that it is not always necessary, but sometimes it is.

    Here it isn't necessary because the sentence is easily understood without it. But here's an example where it certainly is necessary:

    My favourite flavours of crips are: smokey bacon, roast chicken, prawn cocktail, and salt and vinegar.

    Without the comma before "and", it would be unlear whether the penultimate item was "prawn cocktail" or "prawn cocktail and salt".

    In your sentence, there is no such ambiguity. But you might want to check up on the house style: some publications insist on the Oxford comma, so as a proof-reader you'd have to insert one.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Commas in a series

    Quote Originally Posted by crussell View Post
    I am proofreading a document and would like to confirm that a comma was omitted.

    These are yellow squash, collard, bell pepper, lima bean, eggplant, pumpkin and tomato.

    I think a comma should be placed after pumpkin -- am I correct? Thanks!
    As Rewboss mentioned, that comma is called the Oxford comma. People have differences of opinion about its use. I favor its use in all cases. The reason is simple. Using the Oxford comma never causes confusion, but omitting it can cause confusion in some cases. Here is an example:

    The children were all dressed in brightly colored uniforms: red, purple, green and yellow, orange and blue and pink.

    What are the colors? One can't tell. Now with the Oxford comma:

    The children were all dressed in brightly colored uniforms: red, purple, green and yellow, orange, and blue and pink.

    The children were all dressed in brightly colored uniforms: red, purple, green and yellow, orange and blue, and pink.

    Do you see the difference?
    Last edited by MikeNewYork; 09-Nov-2006 at 06:04.

  3. RonBee's Avatar
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    #5

    Lightbulb Re: Commas in a series

    Quote Originally Posted by crussell View Post
    I am proofreading a document and would like to confirm that a comma was omitted.

    These are yellow squash, collard, bell pepper, lima bean, eggplant, pumpkin and tomato.

    I think a comma should be placed after pumpkin -- am I correct? Thanks!
    Say:
    There are yellow squash, collard greens, bell peppers, lima beans, eggplant, pumpkins, and tomatoes.

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    #6

    Re: Commas in a series

    I had posted a question like that before, criticizing the comma + and, but now I not only do know how to use it, but also why and what its called! Thanks a bunch!

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Commas in a series

    Quote Originally Posted by Avalon View Post
    I had posted a question like that before, criticizing the comma + and, but now I not only do know how to use it, but also why and what its called! Thanks a bunch!
    You're very welcome.

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