Opinions oxford az of english usage pdf writers and editors differ on whether to use the serial comma. This practice is controversial and is known as the serial comma or Oxford comma, because it is part of the house style of Oxford University Press. Use of the comma is consistent with conventional practice. It matches the spoken cadence of sentences better.
Its omission can suggest a stronger connection between the last two items in a series than actually exists. Use of the comma is inconsistent with conventional practice. Where space is at a premium, the comma adds unnecessary bulk to the text. The style that always uses the serial comma may be less likely to result in ambiguity. To my parents, Ayn Rand and God. To my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.
To God, Ayn Rand and my parents. Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall. A serial comma following “Kris Kristofferson” would help prevent this being understood as Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall being the ex-wives in question. My usual breakfast is coffee, bacon and eggs and toast. It is unclear whether the eggs are being grouped with the bacon or the toast. Adding a serial comma removes this ambiguity.
Writers who normally avoid the serial comma often use one in these circumstances, although sometimes re-ordering the elements of such a list can help as well. In some circumstances using the serial comma can create ambiguity. Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector”. This would still be ambiguous if a serial comma were added, as Mandela could then be mistaken for a demigod, although he would be precluded from being a dildo collector. They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid, and a cook. Betty, or the second in a list of three people.
They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid and a cook. So in this case neither the serial-comma style nor the no-serial-comma style resolves the ambiguity. Furthermore, if the reader is unaware of which convention is being used, both versions are always ambiguous. They went to Oregon with Betty, who was a maid and a cook. They went to Oregon with Betty, both a maid and a cook. They went to Oregon with Betty, their maid and cook.
They went to Oregon with Betty—a maid—and a cook. They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid, and with a cook. They went to Oregon with the maid Betty and a cook. They went to Oregon with a cook and Betty, a maid. They went to Oregon with Betty, as well as a maid and a cook. They went to Oregon with Betty and a maid and a cook. They went to Oregon with Betty, one maid and a cook.
They went to Oregon with a maid, a cook, and Betty. They went with Betty to Oregon with a maid and a cook. Journalists typically do not use the serial comma, possibly for economy of space. In Australia, Canada, and South Africa, the serial comma tends not to be used in non-academic publications unless its absence produces ambiguity.