comma before 'and' [serial comma]: I like A, B, and C.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by thishall, Mar 22, 2011.

  1. thishall Junior Member

    Delaware
    South Korea - Korean & English
    Is that right format?

    I like A, B, and C.

    or

    I like A, B and C.
     
  2. Sharifa345

    Sharifa345 Senior Member

    USA
    US English, DR Spanish
    Actually either is acceptable, depending on your preference. When I was in school, we had to use a comma after "and" in a list, but now I actually think it's more common to omit it. Both are grammatically correct.
     
  3. reganse Senior Member

    Houston, Texas
    English – U.S.
    Both are correct. It depends on your preference. In AP (Associated Press) style, the comma before the conjunction is omitted in a sentence with words in a (simple) series. So, according to AP style, the second one is correct.
     
  4. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    That comma, the one before "and" in a series of three or more things, is called the serial comma. Both formats above are grammatically correct, as long as the meaning is clear. How do you choose which to use?

    Opinions differ. My opinion: I always use the comma, because in some cases, the meaning will not be clear otherwise—or the result will be a meaning one did not intend. If you always use the comma, you don't have to worry about it.

    Here are two classic examples often cited in discussions of how the meaning can come out wrong when the comma isn't used:

    (1) An author's book dedication.
    With the comma: I dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.
    Without the comma: I dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

    (2) Concerning an article about a male movie star:
    With the comma: Among those interviewed were his ex-wives, Prince Harry, and Johnny Depp.
    Without the comma: Among those interviewed were his ex-wives, Prince Harry and Johnny Depp.
     
  5. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    It's also called the Oxford comma.

    The nuns drilled into my head that you always use it with a coordinating conjunction (usually and or or) in a sentence that lists three or more items.

    I just can NOT use it in my writing.

    Today, students are taught it's optional. Sorry, that's just so wrong! :)
     
  6. OAkritas New Member

    English-Colorado
    Maybe both are correct, but the first one is the safe one.
     
  7. thishall Junior Member

    Delaware
    South Korea - Korean & English
    You guys are so helpful! I have learned English a lot from this forum. Thank you so much..
     
  8. baosheng Senior Member

    Canada
    Canada, English
    I was taught that only "I like A, B and C." is correct. I'm not sure if this is what most Canadians learn or not, but it looks like it is not as common in the US...
     
  9. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Look at post #4, Baosheng. Do you not see that the absence of the comma could lead to a wrong meaning?
     
  10. Hildy1 Senior Member

    English - US and Canada
    Hello, thishall,
    If you type "serial comma" (without the quotation marks) in the box at the top of this page, and scroll down, you will find many threads about the serial commma.
     
  11. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
  12. Silverobama

    Silverobama Senior Member

    Chongqing
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    I agree with Parla (in #4) and I have a question for you about my context:

    Yesterday I read a sentence and it goes like:

    The hot pot in Chongqing is very hot, spicy and peppery, but it attracts many more people than the milder style in Guangdong.

    I read many threads about this serial comma, and I found that AE speakers tend to use it to avoid misunderstanding even if the meaning is clear. While BE speakers don't do that quite often. Of course, a native speaker also said "BE speakers do that more frequently because they are influenced by AE speakers currently." Anyway, my question is: do I need to add a comma after "spicy"?

    Thoughts:

    I don't think it's needed for two reasons:

    1)If I don't add a comma, when I am saying this to someone, they might understand in this way "....is very hot: spicy and peppery", if they have never tried this kind of food, they will consider hot pot is hot and hot means "spicy and peppery". But hot means "high temperature" and "spicy" and "spicy", "peppery" means something else, so if I include "hot", the meaning is clearly not "spicy" but "high temperature". So when I say this to my listeners, they'll understand the hot pot has high temperature, spicy and peppery.
    2)If I write this, I'll choose a "dash" or ":" if I want to say "hot" means "spicy" and "peppery". I am a fan of Scienticfic America and I see the editors there use dash to explain what they are about to say rather than a comma.

    May I have your opinion?

    Thanks a lot
     
  13. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I would use the comma (as you can guess from my prior comments).

    P.S.: I think you mean the magazine Scientific American (and magazine and newspaper titles are properly italicized).
     
  14. Silverobama

    Silverobama Senior Member

    Chongqing
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Thanks a lot and Yes to your doubt. :)
     

Share This Page