Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Serial Comma Forever

Okay, now that I've settled the issue of the proper number of spaces to be left between sentences (two!) I might as well wade into ("weigh in on" is also correct) the serial comma debate.  The serial comma is an institution that must be respected - and will forever be here at OH2 you can rest assured.  Commas are meant to indicate a pause, like this.  And, Buddha knows, there aren't enough pauses in today's fast-paced hurly-burly world.  Commas are not, however, mandatory before the word "and".  Only the serial comma is.  Thus when listing more than two items in a series a comma must be used before "and".  Otherwise the list goes on, and on and on - and looks like that.  Everything runs together.  A grocery list, for instance, might include milk, bread, eggs, and butter.  However, if you only need eggs and butter then the need for a comma is obviated.  Like fingernails on a chalkboard, the absence of a serial comma grates on the nerves, lays bare one's lack of regard for the English language, and distinguishes between true students of grammar and mere afficionados.  (Notice the serial comma thus used in combination with the absence of a non-serial comma before the final "and" in the previous sentence?)  There you go, the serial comma.