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Thread: comma before 'and' [conjunction]: discuss A, and B. An Oxford comma?

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    comma before 'and' [conjunction]: discuss A, and B. An Oxford comma?

    I have recently been educated by Dimcl that,

    Askoxford.com defines a serial comma as:

    Serial comma (also Oxford comma) n. a comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before 'and' or 'or' (e.g. an Italian painter, sculptor, and architect).
    [Does this mean that an Oxford comma is exactly the same as a serial comma? - askoxford.com give two different definitions for the two terms.]

    My question now is, what do you call the type of comma in the sentence examples below?

    I want to discuss health and safety. [one concept]
    I want to discuss health, and safety. [two concepts]

    We should invite Wiremu and Mary. [W&M seen as a unit]
    We should invite Wiremu, and Mary. [W&M seen as two separate units]
    NZF

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by nzfauna View Post
    I have recently been educated by Dimcl that,



    [Does this mean that an Oxford comma is exactly the same as a serial comma? - askoxford.com give two different definitions for the two terms.]

    My question now is, what do you call the type of comma in the sentence examples below?

    I want to discuss health and safety. [one concept]
    I want to discuss health, and safety. [two concepts]

    We should invite Wiremu and Mary. [W&M seen as a unit]
    We should invite Wiremu, and Mary. [W&M seen as two separate units]
    I've been waiting for someone to jump in here and help us out, Nzfauna, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen so I'm going to add two more cents worth.

    What I don't really understand in your sample sentences are the one concept/two concepts idea. Why is "Wiremu and Mary" one concept/one unit and "Wiremu," and "Mary" two concepts/two units? If I were to say "We should invite Wiremu. Oh, and Mary", that would be two separate ideas/units. Why are Wiremu and Mary one unit?

    Edit: In answer to your question about what to call the comma in your sentences - I hate to say it but the comma shouldn't be there at all...

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by nzfauna View Post
    I have recently been educated by Dimcl that,



    [Does this mean that an Oxford comma is exactly the same as a serial comma? - askoxford.com give two different definitions for the two terms.]

    My question now is, what do you call the type of comma in the sentence examples below?

    I want to discuss health and safety. [one concept]
    I want to discuss health, and safety. [two concepts]

    We should invite Wiremu and Mary. [W&M seen as a unit]
    We should invite Wiremu, and Mary. [W&M seen as two separate units]
    In my view, the comma is optional before the last item in the longer list. But if you want to signal a pause between a list of two items or concepts (not sentences), I would use a long dash. I agree with Dimcl and do not believe the comma is correct:

    We should invite Wiremu -- and Mary.

    You can only use the comma before the final conjunction if the items are sentences:

    Bill sells furniture, and John writes novels.

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    I'm afraid, Dear NZF, that I too would call those unnecessary commas.
    Edit yourself ~ its less embarassing than someone else doing it for you,

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by nzfauna View Post

    [Does this mean that an Oxford comma is exactly the same as a serial comma? - askoxford.com give two different definitions for the two terms.]

    It does list each separately but the Oxford comma is defined as being another name for a serial comma, so: yes, askoxford.com is saying that they are identical.

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Suppose that Wiremu and Mary are very happily married. It would be normal to say:

    We should invite Wiremu and Mary.

    Now suppose that Wiremu and Mary have been having a tempestuous hate affair for ten years and that recently Wiremu tried to murder Mary. We might pause in speech after Wiremu, and, in writing, I'd expect punctuation to be able to communicate this fact. Why not?

    We should invite Wiremu, and Mary.

    To deny the possibility of doing this correctly seems to me to restrict the power of punctuation to link the written and the spoken word.

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Yes, I see what you mean, TT ~ I just don't think we'd do it that way (well, I don't think I would, anyway). I'd be more likely to say or write We should invite Wiremu and Mary ~ but separately.
    Edit yourself ~ its less embarassing than someone else doing it for you,

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by ewie View Post
    Yes, I see what you mean, TT ~ I just don't think we'd do it that way (well, I don't think I would, anyway). I'd be more likely to say or write We should invite Wiremu and Mary ~ but separately.
    But now you've changed the words used. One could, and very well might, write:

    We should invite Wiremu...and Mary.

    But I see We should invite Wiremu, and Mary as a possible intermediate level, indicating a smaller pause, perhaps, between the version with the dots and

    We should invite Wiremu and Mary.

    Maybe I see punctuation as being a more flexible matter than some other people. Is there some rule which you think is being broken by NZF's suggestion?

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion View Post
    Is there some rule which you think is being broken by NZF's suggestion?
    Only the rule of usage (Can we assume we're only talking about the written version here?) For such a short sentence I find that comma extraordinarily jarring and ~ not to exaggerate (for once) ~ a bit bizarre: I just feel it's adding a comma-pause where a comma-pause shouldn't be.
    If I was going to write this, I'd go for:
    We should invite Wiremu ... and Mary
    OR
    We should invite Wiremu ~ and Mary
    What do you think of those alternatives? I'm not saying that a comma there isn't possible ~ just that it's not probable in 'everyday' English.
    Edit yourself ~ its less embarassing than someone else doing it for you,

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by ewie View Post
    Only the rule of usage (Can we assume we're only talking about the written version here?) For such a short sentence I find that comma extraordinarily jarring and ~ not to exaggerate (for once) ~ a bit bizarre: I just feel it's adding a comma-pause where a comma-pause shouldn't be.
    If I was going to write this, I'd go for:
    We should invite Wiremu ... and Mary
    OR
    We should invite Wiremu ~ and Mary
    What do you think of those alternatives? I'm not saying that a comma there isn't possible ~ just that it's not probable in 'everyday' English.
    I'm intrigued by your use of the tilde, Ewie. I didn't know it could be used in conventional punctuation in English, though I know it's used in logic and mathematics. I certainly wouldn't use it here.

    The fact that you find the comma bizarre isn't in itself a disqualification, I feel, because it would be bizarre to pause there - the bizarre circumstances have called for the bizarre punctuation, and if you didn't notice it, I, as an author, would feel that I'd not pulled off the effect I was striving for.

    How about the other example - health, and safety? The problem here, I feel, is that we are dealing with two nouns which we've met together so often that the separation feels unnatural. Similarly I'd find it hard to accept bread, and butter or Laurel, and Hardy. However, when the ideas are very distinct, is NZF's idea so strange? I drove to Leeds to see my auntie, and an opera (?)

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    I'd like to recall you that the definition in post no.1 says three or more items,
    therefore neither Wiremu&Mary nor auntie&opera examples are included in that definition.

    The comma of post no.1 has a special value, which I recognise immediately by comparison, because in Italian such a comma is simply wrong!
    I found that comma in lists in English very often, and I learned that it's an English usage.
    For this reason, I think that 'Oxford comma' is an excellent name for that.

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Salegrosso View Post
    I'd like to recall remind you that the definition in post no.1 says three or more items,
    therefore neither Wiremu&Mary nor auntie&opera examples are included in that definition.

    The comma of post no.1 has a special value, which I recognise immediately by comparison, because in Italian such a comma is simply wrong!
    I found that comma in lists in English very often, and I learned that it's an English usage.
    For this reason, I think that 'Oxford comma' is an excellent name for that.
    No real need for a reminder, Salegrosso, because the question in the OP which I was addressing really starts under the definition - my question now is...

    And what follows are examples with two items, so I don't think we'd left the point, or that we need restrict our discussion to Oxford or serial commas, which are used by some people when dealing with more than two items.

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion View Post
    No real need for a reminder, Salegrosso, because the question in the OP which I was addressing really starts under the definition - my question now is...

    And what follows are examples with two items, so I don't think we'd left the point, or that we need restrict our discussion to Oxford or serial commas, which are used by some people when dealing with more than two items.
    Ok, in that case I beg pardon for not catching the point of the discussion.
    Thank you for the correction, TT.

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion View Post
    Suppose that Wiremu and Mary are very happily married. It would be normal to say:

    We should invite Wiremu and Mary.

    Now suppose that Wiremu and Mary have been having a tempestuous hate affair for ten years and that recently Wiremu tried to murder Mary. We might pause in speech after Wiremu, and, in writing, I'd expect punctuation to be able to communicate this fact. Why not?

    We should invite Wiremu, and Mary.

    To deny the possibility of doing this correctly seems to me to restrict the power of punctuation to link the written and the spoken word.
    When I look at this with my morning eyes, it seems to me that yes, you could use the comma like this, Thomas. I don't know of any grammatical rule that is being broken. (Some have tried to make that rule, but I don't buy it.) My preference, however, would be the long dash, to make that pause.

    I hadn't seen tildes used and that was interesting. In creative writing I could accept that; but I wouldn't teach my ESL students the tilde.

    By the way, there is another possibility I don't believe anyone has mentioned, for conveying the pause:

    We should invite Wiremu. And Mary.

    The period. But I still prefer the dash.

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    ~~~ not a tilde but a 'swung dash' (it's called something else in AE but I forget what). These are letters with tildes: ã õ ñ.
    For some reason I've become addicted to swung dashes ~ they fulfil the same jobs as standard unswung ones.
    Edit yourself ~ its less embarassing than someone else doing it for you,

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by ewie View Post
    ~~~ not a tilde but a 'swung dash' (it's called something else in AE but I forget what). These are letters with tildes: ã õ ñ.
    For some reason I've become addicted to swung dashes ~ they fulfil the same jobs as standard unswung ones.
    I like it. Can't say that I've seen it. Is it used in current literature? Internet?

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Can't rightly say where I picked it up, Coiffe, sorry
    Edit yourself ~ its less embarassing than someone else doing it for you,

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion View Post
    Suppose that Wiremu and Mary are very happily married. It would be normal to say:

    We should invite Wiremu and Mary.

    Now suppose that Wiremu and Mary have been having a tempestuous hate affair for ten years and that recently Wiremu tried to murder Mary. We might pause in speech after Wiremu, and, in writing, I'd expect punctuation to be able to communicate this fact. Why not?

    We should invite Wiremu, and Mary.
    To use your example, TT, I'd be much more inclined to say:

    "We should invite Wiremu. I wonder, though, about inviting Mary. The last thing I need at my party is a murder."

    Seriously, though, I don't understand how we can invite a comma to be an afterthought or mental consideration. To me, putting a comma into the Wiremu and Mary scenario is like saying:

    A: "We're supposed to take a fruit basket to the picnic. What kinds of fruit shall we take?"
    B: Let's take apples, and oranges"

    Does this indicate an afterthought or a punctuation error?

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimcl View Post
    To use your example, TT, I'd be much more inclined to say:

    "We should invite Wiremu. I wonder, though, about inviting Mary. The last thing I need at my party is a murder."

    Seriously, though, I don't understand how we can invite a comma to be an afterthought or mental consideration. To me, putting a comma into the Wiremu and Mary scenario is like saying:

    A: "We're supposed to take a fruit basket to the picnic. What kinds of fruit shall we take?"
    B: Let's take apples, and oranges"

    Does this indicate an afterthought or a punctuation error?
    As in all communication, I suspect, it depends who is writing. The fact that you're asking the question means you think it could be an afterthought, and that was all I was arguing.

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    Re: Not Oxford comma..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion View Post
    Maybe I see punctuation as being a more flexible matter than some other people. Is there some rule which you think is being broken by NZF's suggestion?
    This is just another example of conservatives, who not only love rules but demand that all others obey them, butting heads with liberals, who are always arguing for more freedom.

    I agree with you, by the way. I continue to emphasize that those who are fine writers all bend conservative rules of punctuation, at least now and then.

    The same group of people who are ready to correct you for adding an extra comma will also insist that you have made a mistake here:

    "Is there some rule which you think is being broken by NZF's suggestion?"

    I'm suprised a prescriptivist has not already jumped in and told you that only "that" is correct above. (I disagre with this too, by the way.)

    Gaer
    Antwortet mir bitte auf Deutsch! Ich schreibe nur auf Englisch, weil ich meine Gedanken so präziser ausdrücken kann.

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