Jumping into the Ring with the Serial Comma
Think of a typical writer: slightly introverted, non-athletic, and of course, bespectacled. There are certainly many exceptions to this stereotype, but most of us fit the image to varying degrees.
One characteristic that is rarely ever assigned to writers is that of fighter. Sure, we may wield the poison pen from time-to-time, but rarely do we become full-fledged mixed-martial artists. However, there is one contentious topic that will make even the most reclusive wordsmith break out the TapouT® t-shirt and execute a mean flying leg kick: the serial comma.
A serial comma is simply a comma after the second-to-last item in a series of three or more things:
Chicago is known for hot dogs, pizza, and Maxwell Street Polish sausages.
Here is the same example without the serial comma:
Chicago is known for hot dogs, pizza and Maxwell Street Polish sausages.
The anti-serial comma contingent argue that the final comma is unnecessary, while those in favor of the serial comma believe that it prevents ambiguity.
The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer because even current style guides disagree. I personally prefer the serial comma because it’s just a tiny punctuation mark—why shouldn’t we use all available means to prevent confusion like this:
I went to the store with my two nieces, Grandpa Joe and Uncle Bob.
Well, I better get out of the ring now, or my glasses might get broken.
Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, copywriting, marketing collateral, blogs, web copy, and instructional content.