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EN: X, Y(,) and Z - serial comma in a list

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by broglet, Aug 28, 2012.

  1. broglet

    broglet Senior Member

    England - English
    bonne idée - mais pas de virgule avant 'and' ici


    Moderator note: This thread was split from another discussion. Other threads were later merged here.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014
  2. Language Lassie

    Language Lassie New Member

    Quelle est la règle SVP broglet? Je pensais qu'en anglais, s'il s'agissait d'une liste, que le dernier mot précédé de "and" devait avoir une virgule. Ce n'est pas le cas?
     
  3. BAlfson Senior Member

    Oklahoma City
    USA - anglais
    Ce n'est plus le cas. I think the rule changed over 50 years ago, LL. It's no longer "A, B, and C" now, it's "A, B and C" now.

    Cheers - Bob
     
  4. alebeau

    alebeau Senior Member

    New Orleans, La.
    United States - English
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2012
  5. broglet

    broglet Senior Member

    England - English
    jamais de virgule avant 'and' sauf pour éviter une éventuelle ambiguïté, eg: 'for breakfast I have bacon and eggs, and coffee'
     
  6. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Then there is a difference in usage between BE and AE: in the US, the comma is standard usage.
     
  7. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    Agreed. I don't think one can attribute the additional comma as AE anymore, MC.
     
  8. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    You can find a partial list of existing discussions of the so-called "Oxford comma" in this post by cycloneviv. And here is the relevant (lack of) guidance from MWDEU:
     
  9. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    So, in short, some insist on using the comma, while others insist on omitting it. :rolleyes::p

    I guess the most important point is to be consistent throughout a given book, paper, or journal—unless the comma or its absence can avoid an ambiguity.
     
  10. broglet

    broglet Senior Member

    England - English
    It strikes me that the reason for avoiding a comma before 'and' at the end of a list is that the purpose of the comma is to indicate a pause, and there is normally no pause before the final 'and' in a list (but I did want to indicate a pause before the highlighted 'and' in this sentence, hence the comma).
     
  11. BAlfson Senior Member

    Oklahoma City
    USA - anglais
    Almost, but I agree with broglet. I had to retrain myself because I had been trained with the 1918 Elements of Style that always uses the Oxford/serial comma except with proper names. Now, the article linked to by CapnPrep describes my approach; leave it out unless needed to show a pause or to clarify; when showing the pause might cause confusion, then leave it out.

    Cheers - Bob
     
  12. silver lining Junior Member

    Montréal
    French - Canada
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    I have a basic English punctuation question: would you put a comma before “and” if another “and” (or coordinating conjunction) is already being used in the same sentence? Here are a couple of examples:

    I ate an apple, a banana and an orange and went back for some ice cream.
    I ate an apple, a banana and an orange, and went back for some ice cream.

    This product is contraindicated in all cases not associated with diabetes and where there is evidence of low iron levels and in patients with suspected hypersensitivity to any of its components.
    This product is contraindicated in all cases not associated with diabetes and where there is evidence of low iron levels, and in patients with suspected hypersensitivity to any of its components.

    Is the comma before the second "and" optional in these cases? Is it simply a matter of adding it for the sake of legibility or does it serve a grammatical purpose? I would use one in French, but I’m not sure the same rule applies in English.

    Thanks!
     
  13. djweaverbeaver Senior Member

    English Atlanta, GA USA
    Hello,

    First off, I would place a serial comma after banana, but this is not such a big deal, and I don't know if this is a case in which American and Canadian English differ.

    To answer your question, there is no comma needed in either case because the and is not connecting two independent sentences. I ate an apple, a banana and an orange is a complete sentence whereas went back for some ice cream is not. I comma could be added (and usually is) if the sentence read I ate an apple, a banana and an orange, and I went back for some ice cream. Also there is no ambiguity of meaning that would warrant adding a comma for clarity.

    The same explanations go for your second example, although stylistically one could argue adding it helps give the reader a brief pause in such a long passage. I might even add commas in the following way: This product is contraindicated in all cases not associated with diabetes, and where there is evidence of low iron levels, and in patients with suspected hypersensitivity to any of its components.

    I hope this helps.
     
  14. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Like dj, I prefer serial commas (in my case, I vastly prefer them). With these sentences (edited to include serial commas):
    ... the red comma is optional. I would include it, because the "and" feels like it would have a pause before it if I said it out loud. The second case is a bit more complex. I think that dj introduces an error into the sentence by re-punctuating it:
    I think the sentence without "and" should run:
    (The logic is "... in cases of the kinds A and B and also​ in patients with C.") With longer phrases, more commas are almost always desirable, because they help show the underlying organization of the sentence to the reader. So here again I prefer more commas to fewer.
     
  15. djweaverbeaver Senior Member

    English Atlanta, GA USA
    Your correction is a vast improvement. I stared at this for a good while trying to figure out a way to improve the stylistics of the sentence and to add clarity, but I wasn't too happy with the outcome. A great suggestion, indeed.
     
  16. silver lining Junior Member

    Montréal
    French - Canada
    Thank you both for your input; it was greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much leeway when it came to tweaking the contents of the second sentence to improve its stylistics, and I submitted the sentence as is, sans additional comma. It’s very technical speech anyways, so I don’t think proper understanding of this sentence hinges solely on the use of the comma. For future reference, however, I’ll know that although the comma isn’t required before "and" in this context since the conjunction isn’t connecting two independent clauses, it can nevertheless be added to bring clarity to a long-winded sentence. Thanks again!
     
  17. silver lining Junior Member

    Montréal
    French - Canada
    Hello all,

    I have, yet again, a question regarding the possible use of a serial comma. Here is the sentence that’s bugging me:

    You will receive a booklet offering tips on exercise and nutrition and information about vascular disease.

    My question has to do with the addition of a comma before "and information". I don't think this would fit the bill for a serial comma, since this list isn't actually made up of three items, but rather of two ("tips" and "information"), one of which (the former) is expanded with the addition of the prepositional phrase "on exercise and nutrition". However, my gut tells me a comma before the second "and" would greatly aid in guiding the reader’s interpretation of the sentence and indicate that "information" and "tips" are on the same level (we’re not dealing with "tips on information").

    Would anyone care to share his or her thoughts on this matter?


    As always, thank you all for your help!
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2013
  18. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I think this is another situation where rewriting is the best solution. You're correct that there should be no comma with "and," since this is a list of only two items. But the reader gets annoyed with the "X and Y and Z" construction. Either change to...

    You will receive a booklet offering information about vascular disease and tips on exercise and nutrition.

    or...

    You will receive a booklet offering tips on exercise and nutrition, as well as information about vascular disease.

    Either A) change the order so the and's don't stack (thus breaking the series of un-comma'd and's) or B) rewrite the sentence so that it doesn't use a coordinating conjunction (and thus can accept a comma).
     
  19. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    I like Lucas-sp's suggestions. :thumbsup:

    Note however that if you insist on using and almost twice in a row (X and Y and Z), I would personally add a comma before the second occurrence to clarify the sentence as per Bob's tip:
    tips on exercise and nutrition, and information about
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2013
  20. silver lining Junior Member

    Montréal
    French - Canada
    Thank you both for your comments and suggestions! They were very helpful.
     

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